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Fil-Am UFC veteran Mark Muñoz shares his thoughts on the state of Filipino MMA

Apart from basketball and, as of recent years, volleyball, combat sports like boxing and mixed martial arts have been quite popular among Filipino sports fans.  A lot of credit for that goes to the likes of eight-division boxing world champion Manny Pacquiao, four-division boxing champion Nonito Donaire Jr., Donnie Nietes, and those who came before them like Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, Pancho Villa, and Gerry Peñalosa, all of whom made it big on the world stage.  In recent years, a number of Filipinos are have also made a name for themselves in the global mixed martial arts arena, and one of the early big stars was none other than former UFC veteran Mark “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” Muñoz.  From 2009 to 2015, Muñoz was one of the UFC’s top middleweight contenders and proudly carried the Filipino flag with him each time he stepped inside the Octagon.  In May of 2015, on the UFC’s inaugural fight card in Manila, Muñoz retired in front of his kababayans after a unanimous decision win over Luke Barnatt.  (READ ALSO: Filipino-American MMA star Mark Muñoz recalls retirement bout in Manila) Muñoz’s run in the UFC came at a time when the North American promotion was easily accessible to fans in the Philippines, and he became a household name in terms of Filipino MMA.  Now, five years after Muñoz’s retirement, MMA in the Philippines has never been more popular, thanks in large part to promotions like the Asia-based ONE Championship, which holds around four events in Manila every year, and of course, the URCC, the Philippines’ first-ever MMA promotion.  Today, homegrown Filipino talents like Eduard Folayang, Joshua Pacio, Kevin Belingon, Denice Zamboanga, Chris Hoffman, an many others have also gotten their time to shine on the world stage, and Muñoz believes that it’s because Filipinos are natural fighters.  “I just feel Filipinos in general have that combat mentality. That’s already inside of them,” Muñoz said on The Hitlist vodcast. “I feel that Filipinos, from the days that we have to get our independence from the Spanish, Jose Rizal, he’s a hero in the nation, it’s just embedded in our culture, in our blood, so I just feel like Filipinos in general would be amazing fighters.” Munoz made special mention of guys like former ONE world champions Folayang and Belingon, as well as URCC champions Hoffman, and Ernesto Montilla Jr.  “I mean you just look at the…Filipinos now, it’s growing and getting better. I’ve been following Eduard Folayang. He’s an amazing representative of the Philippines, Kevin Belingon, he’s the man. I think there’s another one that was on the card when I fought, Mark Eddiva is good. I know I’m leaving out a lot of fighters, there’s Ernesto Montilla Jr., when I was there in training, a guy caught my eyes, Chris Hoffman trained with me and helped me out. I know he’s doing big things in the Philippines. I think he’s URCC champion.”  “There’s a lot of good fighters in the Philippines. I know I’m leaving out a lot and I don’t want to do that but there’s a lot of good talents in the Philippines and I wanna come, I wanna be there and help them in wrestling, in MMA wresting, in ground and pound, in everything that was my specialty in MMA,” he added.  While Filipinos have indeed excelled in mixed martial arts, one aspect continues to be perceived as the Filipino fighter’s weakness is the ground game, whether it be wrestling or grappling.  (READ ALSO: Mark Muñoz not ruling out MMA return) Today’s young stars, guys like Team Lakay’s Pacio and Danny Kingad have displayed some exceptional grappling in their past performances, but Muñoz, a former collegiate wrestler and current wrestling coach, made a living off taking guys down and keeping them grounded.  “I think the common thing that everyone says with MMA is wrestling. Wrestling is the ultimate neutralizer. If you don’t have a good understanding of wrestling, you’re gonna have a really hard time becoming one of the, being ranked in the world or even be a champion,” Muñoz explained. “If you look at all the champions now, or the ones that are ranked in the world. A lot of them have background in wrestling. I feel that that’s something that the Philippines needs.” Muñoz has always said that one of the things he would most like to do is to help develop wrestling in the Philippines and hopes to one day be able to finally fulfill that mission.  “I’m the guy to do that for them. I need to make sure I spend time in the Philippines to be able to help that,” he continued......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnJun 19th, 2020

2020 king of recruiting crown remains on UP’s head

Who was our King of Recruiting in 2018? Find out here. Who was our King of Recruiting in 2019? Find out here. --- From 2007 to 2015, the University of the Philippines only had 13 wins to show in 126 games total. That time is self-deprecatingly called in Diliman as the dark days. Due to that disappointing standing, the Fighting Maroons had the toughest time bringing in recruits. And due to that lack of pieces to the puzzles, they lost even more. Safe to say, State U was stuck in a vicious cycle in the dark days. That’s not to say they didn’t have blue-chip recruits back then as in their time, all of Woody Co, Mark Juruena, Mike Gamboa, Kyles Lao, Jett Manuel, and Mikee Reyes were among the best high school players. Only, a blue-chip recruit or two does not make a team. Fast forward to now and oh, how things have changed. Last year, UP was hailed as ABS-CBN’s King of Recruiting alongside University of the East. “On the strength of the transfers of Kobe Paras and Ricci Rivero, the Fighting Maroons… are worthy of the title,” it said then. And the season before that, the maroon and green was also up there with the best of them in terms of recruitment, having brought in the likes of eventual Season MVP Bright Akhuetie, Will Gozum, and Jaydee Tungcab. Indeed, there was nowhere to go but up. That has only continued this year as UP has left no doubt that it is now a force to reckon with in terms of recruitment. Early on, they already had a solid haul in Joel Cagulangan, once the best point guard in high school, and tireless workhorse Malick Diouf. And then, the shock of shocks. As it turned out, Nazareth School of National University stalwarts Carl Tamayo and Gerry Abadiano were going to be Fighting Maroons. Meaning, for the first time in recent history, the most promising prospect coming out of high school is headed to Diliman. Not only that, State U also answered its biggest question heading into next season – the question at point guard, filling in for Jun Manzo. But as it turned out, they weren’t done just yet - no, our friends, they weren’t done just yet. Tamayo and Abadiano’s departure from National U was shocking, without a doubt, but CJ Cansino’s exit from University of Sto. Tomas was even more so. Cansino, against his will, decided to move on from his alma mater since 2015 due to personal reasons. Fortunately for him, he landed on his feet. Now, the Fighting Maroons have ready-made replacement for Rivero as well as a leader in the shades of Paul Desiderio for UAAP 84. And that, our friends, is why we have no choice but to put the 2020 King of Recruiting crown on UP’s head once more. Tamayo and Abadiano are the bluest of blue-chip recruits this year and Cagulangan, Cansino, and Diouf are among the most talented transferees, but also joining them in the maroon and green will be scoring machine RC Calimag from La Salle Green Hills, burly big Miguel Tan from Xavier High School, Filipino-American playmaker Sam Dowd, Filipino-Australian tower Ethan Kirkness, physical forward Jancork Cabahug from University of Visayas, and versatile wing CJ Catapusan from Adamson University. The former Bullpups are guaranteed ato be contributors even as rookies while Calimag, Tan, and Dowd are going to shore up a bench that had just lost Gomez de Liano brothers Javi and Juan. Of course, Diouf, Kirkness, Cansino, Cabahug, and Cagulangan are still serving residency, but when they will be eligible, they will get a shot at a squad that will look brand new. All of Bright Akhuetie, J-Boy Gob, David Murrell, Noah Webb, and Rivero are graduating players while Paras is only guaranteed to play one more year. That means that after Season 83, the Fighting Maroons may very well have to fill six spots. That means that UP is not only beefing up for UAAP 83, it is also securing its future. If not for the shock of shocks, though, the crown would have been claimed by De La Salle University which sent a statement that it is back and better than ever. Justine Baltazar and Aljun Melecio may be playing their fifth and final years in college, but the green and white’s future has only brightened following this prolonged preseason. First and foremost, Kevin Quiambao, the third leg in that National U tripod of talent out of high school, has the capability and confidence to follow in the footsteps of Baltazar. Hopefully, he will be eligible for Season 83, but if not, what’s certain is he will be playing in UAAP 84. Alongside him as pieces for the future are super scorers CJ Austria and Emman Galman, all-around swingman Joshua Ramirez, and Filipino-Americans Jeromy Hughes, Kameron Vales, and Philips bros. Benjamin and Michael. Among all those, Jonnel Policarpio, likened to a young Arwind Santos, has the highest upside, but the Fil-Ams have much potential as well. And don’t forget that Evan Nelle, the primetime playmaker from San Beda University, is just getting primed and prepped to take the reins when Melecio leaves. Of course, the caveat here is that we are all in uncharted territory due to the continuing COVID-19 crisis. And in that light, the next season of the UAAP remains far away and a lot could still happen until then. While majority of the local blue-chip recruits have already committed, talents from abroad and transferees from other schools could still come and change the game. With that being said, there remains no doubt that UP and La Salle have made the biggest noise in the offseason. However, it’s not actually the Fighting Maroons or the Green Archers who got the lion’s share of the best graduating players in the 2020 NBTC 24. Yes, that honor belongs to Lyceum of the Philippines University which is finally reaping the rewards of its rising Jrs. program with NCAA 95 Jrs. MVP John Barba and Batang Gilas playmaker Mac Guadana being promoted as full-fledged Pirates. Guadana could do it all and looks like the next great guard in the Grand Old League while fearless slasher is Barba is a perfect complement to him. Add another fiery guard in John Bravo and sweet-shooting big man Carlo Abadeza and LPU has restocked its coffers after losing Marcelino twins Jaycee and Jayvee and Cameroonian powerhouse Mike Nzeusseu. In all though, the 2020 NBTC 24 was dominated by UP… and San Beda. Of the annual rankings’ 15 graduating players, four would be Fighting Maroons and another four would be Red Lions. Yes, San Beda’s grassroots program is back on track with its Jrs. championship core all remaining in red and white. Rhayyan Amsali, ranked no. 1 in the 2020 NBTC 24, is the most college-ready high school player while Justine Sanchez is a long-limbed forward who could turn out to be the next Calvin Oftana, you know, the NCAA 95 MVP. Yukien Andrada, meanwhile, is only continuing to develop his two-way game and Tony Ynot is a 3-and-D weapon who had even left an impression on Jalen Green. And hey, as somebody said, don’t sleep on the UAAP’s three-time defending champions. Ateneo may already be missing Isaac Go, Thirdy Ravena, Adrian Wong, and Nieto twins Mike and Matt and they may not be making noise as of late, but they are still welcoming Dave Ildefonso and Dwight Ramos with open arms. Ildefonso will only be good to go come UAAP 84, but Ramos is already being seen by head coach Tab Baldwin as a difference-maker for the Blue Eagles in Season 83. Eli, Dwight’s younger brother, is also in the mix to backstop SJ Belangel and Tyler Tio. Note also that former blue-chip recruit Inand Fornilos may very well finally get his shot while both Jolo Mendoza and Raffy Verano are also back. Ateneo’s foe in the Finals last year also reloaded quite a bit as for the third year in a row, UST will be sending the Tiger Cubs’ best player to the Srs. squad. Following in the footsteps of Cansino and Mark Nonoy, post player Bismarck Lina will be a Growling Tiger next season. Alongside him to fortify the frontcourt are Christian Manaytay, Bryan Samudio, and Bryan Santos while bolstering the backcourt are Joshua Fontanilla and Paul Manalang. Speaking of fortifying the frontcourt, Far Eastern University is the team that got the biggest boost in terms of size. With 6-foot-7 Nigerian Emman Ojoula’s residency over and done with, the go-go guards of the Tamaraws have yet another weapon to burn opponents with. CESAFI MVP Kevin Guibao and transferee Simone Sandagon are no slouches either while Cholo Anonuevo has a roster spot waiting for him if and when he decides to come home after trying his luck in the US. RJ Abarrientos no longer appears here as he was already in FEU’s list last year. These are the new faces to see for the other teams: CSB Blazers LETRAN Knights JRU Heavy Bombers MAPUA Cardinals ADAMSON Soaring Falcons UE Red Warriors --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 26th, 2020

Fil-Am fighter Mark Striegl’s UFC debut delayed due to COVID-19

Filipino-American mixed martial artist Mark "Mugen" Striegl will have to wait a little bit longer before he can make his UFC debut. The 32-year old Striegl - a former PXC and ONE Championship contender, URCC Featherweight Champion, and 2019 SEA Games gold medalist in Combat Sambo - signed with the North American MMA promotion last week and was scheduled to make his debut on this weekend's UFC Fight Night card at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas against Russian newcomer Timur Valiev.  Just days before the event however, Striegl was removed from the card, and replaced by fellow PXC veteran Trevin Jones.  The reason for Striegl's removal, as it turns out, was a positive COVID-19 test.  Striegl shared the news on his Instagram account:         View this post on Instagram                       A post shared by Mark "Mugen" Striegl (@markmugen) on Aug 21, 2020 at 5:56pm PDT “I tested positive for CV19 and my August 22 UFC fight is cancelled,” Striegl wrote. Fortunately, Striegl says that his symptoms are mild and he hopes to be able to get back on track soon. “Thankfully, my symptoms are mild and I’m looking forward to bouncing back!” The Baguio City-based fighter flew to Las Vegas back in late-July to sign his UFC deal and prepare for his debut. The likely scenario is that Striegl gets rebooked for a fight once he’s cleared and healthy.  With the UFC continuously putting on events, it shouldn't take long before Striegl can finally make that walk down to the Octagon......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 22nd, 2020

Fil-Am Robertson makes NHL debut

Filipino-American Nicholas Robertson made his debut for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the National Hockey League on Monday. Robertson saw action on ice for 12 and a half minutes in the Maple Leafs’ losing effort against the Columbus Blue Jackets, 0-2, in Game 1 of their best-of-five qualifying round series. The 18-year-old forward from Arcadia, California, who was drafted by the team with the 53rd overall pick in 2019, logged in one shot on goal.    Cam Atkinson scored early in the third period while Joonas Korpisalo preserved a clean sheet as he stopped 28 shots in his first playoff start for the Blue Jackets’ shutout win. Korpisalo, who got the nod over rookie Elvis Merzlikins, neutralized one of the NHL's highest scoring teams. Atkinson's snap shot from the top of the right circle went under Toronto veteran goalie Frederik Andersen’s right arm 1:05 into the third. Alexander Wennberg sealed the win with an empty-netter with 19 seconds remaining. Andersen had 34 saves for the Maple Leafs. The teams opened their series as part of the league's 24-team relaunch to its pandemic-halted 2019-20 season. The game was played at empty Scotiabank Arena in the NHL's return following a 142-day absence. The Leafs are trying to advance past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2004. They are coming off consecutive first-round, seven-game playoff losses to the Boston Bruins. The Leafs were eighth in the Eastern Conference at 36-25-9, while the Blue Jackets were ninth with a 33-22-3 mark. With a report from the Associated Press.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 3rd, 2020

Four champion martial artists who are also champion dads

Father’s Day comes but once a year, and is a time to celebrate the incredible patriarchs in our lives who have guided us through our toughest challenges. They are the foundation of every family, working tirelessly through day and night to make sure the people they love are happy and safe. This Father’s Day, let’s honor the men in our lives who embody strength, discipline, and loyalty. Great fathers provide their children with a feeling of security, both physically and emotionally, but aren’t afraid to let them stumble and fall in order for them to learn the lessons they need to make it through life.  These four men have given their children the gift of martial arts, but more importantly have also proven to be amazing dads. Ken Lee Brazilian jiu-jitsu and taekwondo black belt, Ken Lee, introduced martial arts to his children at a young age because he believes it can help develop them into great fighters, not just in competition, but also in life. Together with his wife Jewelz -- also a champion martial artist -- they’ve raised four incredible children, including reigning ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion Angela Lee, and ONE Lightweight World Champion Christian Lee. Their two youngest children, Adrian and Victoria, are both on their way to following in their footsteps. Needless to say, martial arts is the family tradition. “Martial arts has always been a way of life for my family,” said Lee. But as much as he is the powerful voice in each of his children’s corners whenever they compete, Lee takes pride in being their father first and foremost. Guiding their careers, he says, is only his second priority. “I will always be their father first and coach second. As a father, the most important thing for me when it comes to my children is their safety and good health, that they are happy and able to live their dreams,” said Lee. Mark Sangiao Filipino martial arts icon Mark “The Machine” Sangiao is a well-known pioneer in the Philippines’ local martial arts community. He is a loving father to two boys, and a father-figure to his students in the famed Team Lakay. Many seek Sangiao out for his wisdom, not just in competing at the highest levels of martial arts, but also for his experience in traversing the hardships of life. The principles he imparts on his two sons, and many young Team Lakay athletes who could very well be considered his own children, have helped guide them down the right path. “As a father, what matters most for me when it comes to my children is providing them what they need,” said Sangiao.  “I’m not just referring to their material or financial needs, but most importantly giving enough attention to their emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being. It is essential that I can provide these to my children, because these are the very core of their development and formation as good and responsible people.” Sangiao has cultivated and developed many world champions, including former titleholders Eduard Folayang, Honorio Banario, Geje Eustaquio, and Kevin Belingon, as well as ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua Pacio. While his eldest son Jhanlo has decided to take after his father in becoming a martial artist, Sangiao says he would support his children regardless of their chosen profession. “I may end up raising a martial artist, a gardener, a businessman, a lawyer -- it doesn’t matter. I will raise them the exact same way. I will support whatever they want to be in life, and what they want for their future. I just want to raise my children to be good, strong, and responsible people,” said Sangiao. Eduard Folayang For two-time former ONE Lightweight World Champion and Team Lakay veteran Eduard “Landslide” Folayang, being a father means imparting his wisdom to his children, and helping them become good members of society. Folayang is a proud father to two young girls, and hopes to instill in them the right values and principles. “I think we have to give our children the right principles to live by. They must be strong in both the body and the mind, but also kind and generous,” said Folayang. While he will support his children no matter what they decide to do when they get older, Folayang still plans on introducing them to martial arts, which is what helped turn his life around as a young man raised in hardship and poverty. “Being a father feels great. I do want my children to practice martial arts. It’s a great way of life and will teach them a lot of lessons. I just want them to find their own talents and help make the world a better place,” said Folayang. Danny Kingad Former ONE World Title challenger and ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Championship Finalist Danny “The King” Kingad is relatively new to fatherhood, with his son Gleurdan Adrian becoming his pride and joy after being born just two years ago.  Being a father, Kingad says, is his single greatest purpose, and he vows to do everything in his power to give his son a good life. “I want to spend every day with my son. It’s important to me to be there for him. I want to help prepare him for the challenges life will bring,” said Kingad. Kingad grew up a troubled youth who fell into bad company and many vices. It wasn’t until he discovered martial arts that his life gained meaning and direction. He hopes to one day introduce martial arts to Gleurdan, when his son is ready. “Martial arts was a saving grace for me, and I learned a lot from training and competing. I would love for my son to learn the core values that martial arts instilled in me when I was younger. I think it will teach him a lot about respect and honor. But of course, I’m here to support my son in whatever he wants to be in life,” said Kingad. “What’s important to me is that he learns to be humble and respectful, and most especially strong, to be able to handle tough times. Having a strong mind is the best asset of a martial artist.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 21st, 2020

Filipino-American MMA star Mark Muñoz recalls retirement bout in Manila

In 2015, Filipino mixed martial arts fans’ prayers were answered when the UFC, finally brought the legendary Octagon to the Philippines.  UFC Fight Night Manila was headlined by Frankie Edgar and Urijah Faber, two former world champions and two of the world’s best at the time.  But while the main event was indeed on worthy of a pay-per-view card, Pinoy fans flocked to the Mall of Asia Arena to see one of their own compete in the Octagon for the very last time.  The UFC’s inaugural card in Manila also featured the retirement bout of Filipino-American Mark “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” Muñoz.  (READ ALSO: Mark Muñoz ends career on the highest of notes) Muñoz was 37 at the time, and was already a veteran in the UFC, having fought 14 times for the North American promotion. During his peak in the UFC, the California-native won seven out of eight fights and came within a win away from becoming a title contender, before losing to eventual middleweight titleholder Chris Weidman.  Following the loss to Weidman, Munoz went on to drop three of his next four bouts.  In the final fight of his MMA career, Muñoz had the chance to go out on top and retire in front of his fellow Filipinos. In front of over 13,000 strong, Muñoz did just that, beating Luke Barnatt via unanimous decision and announcing his retirement durung the post-fight speech.  (READ ALSO: The MMA community reacts to Mark Munoz's final fight and retirement) On an episode of The Hit List Vodcast, Muñoz recalled that night and what it meant for him to end his career that way.  “Oh man. I would cherish that night forever,” Muñoz said. “Even when I came to the Philippines early and I visited my family, I still have four generations of my family still there and it was so cool to see my whole family and just to have the support there from everybody. It was amazing and for me, you know, I just felt the love.” “I loved it. And when I walked out, I heard just people cheering and as I was walking out, I slapped somebody’s hand and I started crying you know. Like, whoah, that’s crazy, I’m getting ready to fight and you know like, dude that’s nuts. For me to be able to have that impact on people because they love the sport I love and I’m able to do it in a high level, it made me just wanna give,” he continued.  Following the hard-fought three-round victory, Muñoz addressed the Pinoy crowd and gave a heartfelt message, thanking his fans and then expressing his desire to help the Philippines out in terms of wrestling, an aspect that has long been deemed lacking or inadequate among Filipino mixed martial artists.  “Like I said before, when I got on the microphone, they handed the microphone to me and they never do that, so when they handed the mic to me, I told everybody that I wanna go back to the Philippines and I wanna help in any way I can and so, right now I’m actually building a website that people could access from all around the world, so it’s a wrestling website and I have the best people on there.  Muñoz’s commitment to helping Filipino wrestlers remains to this day, saying that he would gladly fly out to the motherland if he was asked to do so.  “I have my wrestling room where you could have the capability of getting on there and learning from me, and if someone wants to bring me for a seminar out there, I’ll come. In a heartbeat. I’d love to go back to the Philippines and help my kababayan. Just be able to support and help everybody I can,” he said.  While Muñoz did decide to call it a career that night, the former collegiate wrestling star believed that he could still compete at a high level, especially since he was working with world champions and elite-level talent on a daily basis.  “I honestly felt that I was still in my prime,” Muñoz admitted. “I honestly felt that I could have fought more and I felt like I could beat still the guys that beat me. I trained with all the best guys. I trained with Lyoto Machida and fought him and I do very well with him inside the gym. Michael Bisping was a training partner of mine. Anderson Silva I trained with him for a very long time. I know that level and I can be at that level. I felt like I could still compete at that level.” The reason why he left the sport, Muñoz explained, is to be able to spend more time with his family.  “To answer your question, the reason why I stepped away from the sport was not because my body wasn’t able to do it. I stepped away because my family needed me more than me being in the sport. Because, I’m telling you it was hard for my wife, she was a single mom with all the kids for a long time so it was hard. Things at home was pretty rough for us and I didn’t like that at all. All the while I was coaching and travelling all the time so something has to give. I felt like yes, it was a storybook ending but a the same time, I can still compete with the best guys in the division.” Check out the full interview HERE .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 15th, 2020

NBA-hopeful Fil-Am Remy Martin takes pride in Filipino roots

The NBA could be getting even more Filipino flavor soon in the form of draft hopeful Remy Martin.  The Arizona State University junior has declared for the upcoming NBA draft and could be a highly-sought after prospect after posting averages of 19.1 points, 4.1 assists, and 3.1 rebounds for the Sun Devils in the 2019-2020 season. Martin and the Sun Devils likely would have made it to their third-straight NCAA Tournament, if not for the league's cancellation due to the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic.  Born to an American father and a Filipino mother, the 21-year old Martin has been nothing short of proud of his Filipino roots, and admits that he has dreams of one day being able to represent a basketball-crazy country like the Philippines.  "My mom is Filipino, and that’s everything. If you know me, I will always wear the Filipino stuff. It just made me who I am. Everything we did was honestly, around family," Martin said.  "That’s more than basketball, that’s always something that I’ve wanted to do, is always to represent another country at a sport that they love. They love basketball, they love watching everything about the games," he added.  Martin says that through his platform, he hopes to be able to serve as an inspiration for others to pursue their dreams and achieve their goals.  "It’s a privilege, to go out there and play the game that you love, especially at this level, and I’m just trying to help. That’s all I wanna do, is help them know that if I can do it, they can do it as well." "I have ASU fans already in the Philippines, which is crazy. It means a lot. Those people that are reaching out, I want to help them, and I can help them, so why not?" Martin continued.  The six-foot playmaker shared that he hopes to follow in the footsteps of fellow Fil-American Jordan Clarkson and suit up for Gilas Pilipinas one day. "I’ve always wanted to go, especially play for the national team. I know one day I’m gonna make my way out there and it’s gonna be a blast. I’m gonna give them everything I have." Martin shares more about himself and his journey in basketball in the video below:          View this post on Instagram                       A post shared by Remy Macaspac Martin (@remymartin1fk) on Apr 4, 2020 at 9:01pm PDT.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 5th, 2020

ONE: KING OF THE JUNGLE RESULTS - Janet Todd decisions Stamp Fairtex to capture ONE Atomweight Kickboxing World Championship

SINGAPORE - The largest global sports media property in Asian history, ONE Championship™ (ONE), held a special closed-door event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. With no crowd in attendance, ONE: KING OF THE JUNGLE still showcased the very best of global martial arts talent. In the main event of ONE: KING OF THE JUNGLE, the United States’ Janet “JT” Todd put together an extraordinary performance, stunning now former two-sport ONE World Champion Stamp Fairtex to capture the ONE Atomweight Kickboxing World Title. The two women had met previously under Muay Thai rules, but tonight, it was the punching accuracy of Todd that led her to victory. Todd opened the bout with a massive first round, connecting on the quicker, more impactful blows. Stamp turned the tide in the second and third rounds, closing the gap on the scorecards. Heading into the championship rounds, it was anybody’s game as the two women gave their all. Behind beautiful boxing combinations, Todd scored on a myriad of straight punches and hooks that found their mark. In the end, all three judges scored the bout in favor of Todd to win by split decision. In the co-main event of the evening, reigning ONE Strawweight Kickboxing World Champion Sam-A Gaiyanghadao of Thailand added another belt to his collection after defeating Australia’s Rocky Ogden to capture the inaugural ONE Strawweight Muay Thai World Championship. The legendary Thai veteran was the quicker and more powerful man as the contest wore on. Although the first few rounds were closely competitive and tactical, Sam-A turned up the aggression in rounds four and five, punishing his young opponent with fast and powerful kicks and boxing combinations. After five high-octane rounds, all three judges scored the bout in favor of Sam-A, who makes history as the first ever male two-sport ONE World Champion. ONE Warrior Series Contract Winner Kimihiro Eto of Japan easily scored the biggest victory of his career when he put former ONE World Title challenger Amir Khan of Singapore to sleep within the first few minutes of the opening round. The Japanese stalwart impressed with his grappling skill, as he effortlessly cancelled out Khan’s dangerous striking. As soon as the bell rang, the two men met immediately at the center of the ONE CIrcle, engaging in the clinch position. Eto then drove Khan against the Circle wall, and within moments he was able to bring the Singaporean Muay Thai Champion to the mat. From there, Eto took Khan’s back and sunk in a deep rear naked choke to end the bout early. Japanese-Korean mixed martial arts legend Yoshihiro “Sexy Yama” Akiyama powered through an early flurry from Egypt’s Sherif “The Shark” Mohamed to win by first round knockout. Mohamed railed off wild haymakers from the opening bell, forcing Akiyama to backpedal and box from distance. The veteran Akiyama showed great head movement, evading most of Mohamed’s power shots. Towards the end of the round, Akiyama punctuated his performance by landing a well-placed right hook as Mohamed was coming in, instantly turning the lights out on the Egyptian. In a clash of top female strawweights, former ONE World Title challenger and Singaporean boxing champion Tiffany “No Chill” Teo overcame a spirited effort from highly-regarded Ayaka Miura of Japan, winning by technical knockout in the third round. Miura flashed moments of brilliance in the first round, attacking with her 3rd Degree Judo Black Belt skills while hunting for her trademark scarf hold submissions. But Teo quickly figured out her game plan and adjusted her strategy to nullify Miura’s ground game. In the second round, Teo took control of the action, stopping Miura’s takedown attempts and then lighting her up on the feet. In the final round, it was all Tiffany Teo as the Singaporean pounded Miura with thunderous strikes to force the stoppage. The Philippines’ Denice “The Menace Fairtex” Zamboanga battered top contender Mei “V.V” Yamaguchi of Japan for the majority of the three-round atomweight contest to win by unanimous decision. Zamboanga was accurate and powerful, connecting on a volley of explosive boxing combinations. By the end of the first round, Yamaguchi’s face already showed the wear of a warrior who has been through war. Although the Japanese former ONE World Title challenger tried to nullify Zamboanga’s striking by taking matters to the ground, the Filipina exhibited impeccable takedown defense, stopping most of Yamaguchi’s takedown attempts. In the end, all three judges scored the bout in favor of Zamboanga. Shortly after, Mitch Chilson announced that Zamboanga had earned herself a shot at the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship currently held by Angela Lee. The United States’ Troy “Pretty Boy” Worthen kept his professional record perfect with a tremendous performance against ONE Warrior Series Contract Winner Mark “Tyson” Fairtex Abelardo of New Zealand and the Philippines. Worthen negated Abelardo’s early onslaught with good footwork and savvy defense. He then tagged Abelardo with a plethora of high kicks that left the Fairtex Gym representative dazed. With his opponent in disarray, Worthen proceeded to turn to his world-class wrestling, overwhelming Abelardo on the mat. Across three whole rounds, Worthen controlled a game but outclassed Abelardo en route to a hard-earned unanimous decision victory. Former ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio “The Rock” Banario of the Philippines returned to the featherweight division to take on Thailand’s Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai, figuring in a close split decision victory. The two former lightweights went to war over three full rounds, meeting each other at the center of the ONE Circle with their best offense. Wiratchai, creator of the OneShin Striking System, dazzled behind a consistent left round kick which found a home on Banario’s chin. The Filipino veteran, however, showcased beautiful boxing, and a relentless takedown game that saw him in top position for the majority of the contest. In the end, two of the three judges saw the bout in favor of Banario. In a women’s atomweight contest, Indian wrestling sensation Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat authored a dominant performance, outgrappling opponent “Miss Red” Wu Chiao Chen of Chinese Taipei over the course of three rounds. Phogat, a Commonwealth Wrestling World Championships gold medalist, took Wu to the canvas at will with smooth takedowns. With Wu on her back, Phogat punished her opponent with fists and elbows from the top. Wu tried her best to defend, but struggled to gain any traction. After three whole rounds, Phogat emerged victorious with an impressive showing, earning the nod on all three judges’ scorecards. ONE Championship newcomer Murad Ramazanov of Russia kept his unblemished record intact after turning in a dominant performance in a victory over South Korea’s “Wolverine” Bae Myung Ho. Action started out fierce, with Bae pushing the pace, pressing Ramazanov up against the Circle wall with powerful strikes. Ramazanov, however, defended quite well and was able to weather the early storm. The former WMMAA World Champion from Dagestan then scored on a quick takedown, bringing the action to the mat. From there, it was all Ramazanov as the Russian star operated a heavy top game that saw him take mount and punish Bae until the referee called a halt to the contest. Kicking off the action at ONE: KING OF THE JUNGLE were bantamweights Jeff “MMAShredded” Chan of Canada and Radeem Rahman of Singapore. Chan immediately went on the offensive from the opening bell, peppering Rahman with fast and powerful combinations in the first round. It didn’t take long however for action to hit the ground, and the two men proceeded to jockey for position. Chan was able to put in some good ground-and-pound for his efforts. In the second round, Chan dominated once again, taking Rahman down off a failed shot from the latter, and then worked his way to take back position. From there, he sunk in a deep rear naked choke to force the tap.   Official results for ONE: KING OF THE JUNGLE ONE Atomweight Kickboxing World Championship: Janet Todd defeats Stamp Fairtex by Split Decision (SD) after 5 rounds ONE Strawweight Muay Thai World Championship: Sam-A Gaiyanghadao defeats Rocky Ogden by Unanimous Decision (UD) after 5 rounds Mixed Martial Arts Lightweight: Kimihiro Eto defeats Amir Khan by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 1:39 minutes of round 1 Mixed Martial Arts Welterweight: Yoshihiro Akiyama defeats Sherif Mohamed by Knockout (KO) at 3:04 minutes of round 1 Mixed Martial Arts Strawweight: Tiffany Teo defeats Ayaka Miura by TKO (Strikes) at 4:45 minutes of round 3 Mixed Martial Arts Atomweight: Denice Zamboanga defeats Mei Yamaguchi by Unanimous Decision (UD) after 3 rounds Mixed Martial Arts Bantamweight: Troy Worthen defeats Mark Fairtex Abelardo by Unanimous Decision (UD) after 3 rounds Mixed Martial Arts Featherweight: Honorio Banario defeats Shannon Wiratchai by Split Decision (SD) after 3 rounds Mixed Martial Arts Atomweight: Ritu Phogat defeats Wu Chiao Chen by Unanimous Decision (UD) after 3 rounds Mixed Martial Arts Welterweight: Murad Ramazanov defeats Bae Myung Ho by TKO (Strikes) at 4:53  minutes of round 1 Mixed Martial Arts Bantamweight: Jeff Chan defeats Radeem Rahman by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 2:00 minutes of round 2  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 1st, 2020

Defending champion Harris and NBA All-Stars Lillard and Yong headline 2020 3-point contest

NEW YORK, Feb. 4, 2020 – Defending champion Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets and NBA All-Stars Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers and Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks will participate in the 2020 MTN DEW® 3-Point Contest on Saturday, Feb. 15 at the United Center in Chicago. The eight-player field for the two-round, timed shooting competition also includes Davis Bertans of the Washington Wizards, Devonte’ Graham of the Charlotte Hornets, Buddy Hield of the Sacramento Kings, Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls and Duncan Robinson of the Miami Heat. The 34th MTN DEW 3-Point Contest is part of State Farm® All-Star Saturday Night, which also features the Taco Bell® Skills Challenge and AT&T Slam Dunk.  All-Star Saturday Night will air live on TNT and ESPN Radio in the United States at 8 p.m. ET.  NBA All-Star 2020 will reach fans in more than 200 countries and territories in more than 40 languages. The 2020 MTN DEW 3-Point Contest features a new look with the addition of two shots in the “MTN DEW Zone” – two locations positioned equidistant between the traditional racks at the top of the 3-point arc and the adjacent “wing” rack.  Each of the two ball pedestals in the MTN DEW Zone is located 6 feet behind the 3-point line and holds one special green ball, the “3-Ball.”  Shots made with the green ball are worth three points.  Click here for a diagram showing the location of the MTN DEW Zone.      In addition to the two new shots, the MTN DEW 3-Point Contest will continue to have five main shooting locations – four racks containing four official NBA game balls (each worth one point) and one multicolored “money” ball (worth two points) as well as one special “all money ball” rack.  Every ball on the all money ball rack, which each participant can place at any of the five traditional shooting locations, is worth two points. With the addition of the MTN DEW Zone, the number of balls in a round has increased to 27 from 25, the amount of time in a round has expanded to 70 seconds (1:10) from 60 seconds (1:00) and the maximum possible score in a round has risen to 40 points from 34 points.  The three competitors with the highest scores in the first round advance to the championship round.  The player with the highest score in the championship round is the winner of the 2020 MTN DEW 3-Point Contest.  Click here for a complete explanation of the rules. Here is a closer look at the 2020 MTN DEW 3-Point Contest participants: • Davis Bertans, Wizards (1st appearance): In his first season with Washington, the 6-10 forward from Latvia is fourth in the NBA in 3-pointers made per game (3.6) and leads the league in catch-and-shoot 3-pointers made per game (3.1).  Bertans is shooting 42.9 percent from beyond the arc, which ranks 10th in the NBA and is identical to his full-season mark with the San Antonio Spurs last season. • Devonte’ Graham, Hornets (1st appearance): Playing his second NBA season, Graham ranks fourth in the league in 3-pointers made with 176.  He was selected to play for the U.S. Team in NBA Rising Stars on Friday, Feb. 14 during NBA All-Star 2020 in Chicago.   • Joe Harris, Nets (2nd appearance): Last year, Harris became the second NBA G League veteran to win the 3-Point Contest, joining 2009 champion Daequan Cook.  Harris, who led the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage last season, is shooting better than 40.0 percent from beyond the arc (40.5) for the third consecutive season. • Buddy Hield, Kings (2nd appearance): Hield was one of three players to reach the final round in the 2019 MTN DEW 3-Point Contest, along with Harris and the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry.  In his fourth NBA season, Hield has made the third-most 3-pointers in the league with 186. • Zach LaVine, Bulls (1st appearance): LaVine has already set a career high for 3-pointers made in a season with 154.  A two-time AT&T Slam Dunk champion (2015 and 2016), LaVine is seeking to become the first player to win both the Slam Dunk and the 3-Point Contest. • Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers (3rd appearance): Lillard, who earned his fifth NBA All-Star selection this season, ranks third in the NBA in scoring (29.8 ppg) and second in 3-pointers made (192).  In his last six games, Lillard has averaged 48.8 points and 8.2 3-pointers made per game and shot 57.0 percent from beyond the arc.   • Duncan Robinson, Heat (1st appearance): The undrafted Robinson ranks fifth in the NBA in 3-pointers made (165) and sixth in 3-point field goal percentage (43.9) in his second season.  An NBA G League veteran, Robinson tied a Miami franchise record by making 10 3-pointers against Atlanta on Dec. 10. • Trae Young, Hawks (1st appearance): The NBA’s fifth-leading scorer (29.2 ppg) has made the same number of 3-pointers in 46 games this season as he did in 81 games last season (156).  In his second season, Young was named a starter for the NBA All-Star Game and a participant for the U.S. Team in NBA Rising Stars.    .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 5th, 2020

Bryant death draws tributes from Asian fans, politicians

BEIJING (AP) — Kobe Bryant was a hugely popular figure in Asia, no more so than in China where basketball rivals soccer as the most popular sport. However, his death Sunday in a helicopter accident comes at an awkward time between the country and the league. National broadcaster CCTC pulled all NBA games off the air following a tweet in October from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey expressing support for Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests. The Chinese Basketball Association, led by former Rockets MVP Yao Ming, announced it would suspend all cooperation with the Texas-based team. Yao and the association have yet to comment on the crash that killed Bryant, daughter Gianna and seven others. Bryant's popularity among Chinese fans was rivaled only by Yao, LeBron James and Michael Jordan. His playing appearances, including the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics won by the U.S., were far exceeded by his promotional appearances in the country, both on behalf of his own brand and basketball generally. At a 2013 Lakers preseason game against Golden State in Beijing, the arena rang out with chants of “Kobe! Kobe!” despite the injured super-star not even having suited up for the game. Commemorations begin rolling in online, many of the accompanied by photos of Yao and Gianna with the letters R.I.P. Others showed the two dressed in uniform walking away into clouds under a basketball net. “For our generation, our memories of the NBA begin with Jordan, and move through Kobe and Yao Ming. You were a part of our youth. Already missing the bright sun of Kobe. Go well,” wrote commentator “ZhanHao” on the popular Twitter-like Weibo messaging service. “Your willpower has inspired a generation. Thank you,” wrote “Teacher Kai Ting.” “I hope there is basketball in heaven. Kobe just went to another world to play basketball with his daughter,” wrote “Cici’s green paper.” In Taiwan, where the NBA also is an enormous draw, President Tsai Ing-wen tweeted that her “thoughts go out to the Bryant family & the families of all those who lost loved ones today." “Kobe inspired a generation of young Taiwanese basketball players, & his legacy will live on through those who loved him," Tsai wrote. Philippine presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo noted that Bryant had been a frequent visitor to the Philippines . “He was well-loved by his Filipino fans," Panelo said in a statement. “On the hard court, he was a sight to behold with his dexterity and accuracy in sinking that ball in the ring. He was a master of his craft. The basketball world has lost one of its legendary greats," Panelo said. “The Palace extends its deepest condolences to the family, friends, colleagues, loved ones and fans around the globe who Kobe left behind. We share in their grief." In Japan, Tetsunori Tanimoto, an official at the Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association, in Kobe, central Japan, expressed his deep condolences for Kobe Bryant’s death. “He helped make Kobe Beef known throughout the world,” he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press Monday. Kobe got his name, the legend goes, after his father ate Kobe beef during a visit to Japan and loved the taste. Tanimoto, who watches NBA games on TV but has never met Bryant, said people know the story about how Bryant got his name. “We have always felt a closeness to him,” he said. “It is so sad. And we offer our deepest condolences.” ___ Associated Press reporters Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo and Kiko Rosario in Bangkok, Thailand contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 27th, 2020

ABS-CBN S+A’S “THE SCORE” LOOKS BACK ON THE BEST OF 2019 IN PH SPORTS

ABS-CBN S+A wraps up a milestone year for Philippine sports with a two-part special of “The Score,” featuring champion athletes in basketball and volleyball, and medalists from the recent 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEAG). Joining veteran sports anchor Mico Halili on December 30 (Monday) to discuss the year in basketball are kings of the hardcourt Fran Yu and Jerrick Balanza from the NCAA Season 93 men’s basketball champion Letran Knights and John Wilson and Mike Ayonayon of MPBL Datu Cup champion San Juan Knights, and Southeast Asia women’s basketball queens Afril Bernardino and Janine Pontejos. Afril and Janine helped make 2019 one for the books for Philippine women’s basketball as members of the teams that clinched the gold medals in SEAG women’s basketball and women’s 3x3. Other SEAG heroes and heroines will also be part of the program as Mico shifts the discussion to Team Philippines’ 387-medal haul in the region’s biennial sporting event. To share their thoughts on the Filipinos’ historic feat are CJ Concepcion (Fencing), Carlo Peña (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), Kim Kilgroe (Triathlon), Jasmine Alkhaldi (Swimming), Christiana Means (Skateboarding), and Meggie Ochoa (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu). On December 31 (Tuesday), former volleyball superstar and now multisport athlete and “Umagang Kay Ganda” anchor Gretchen Ho takes over the special to focus on the sensational year for Philippine volleyball. Premier Volleyball League (PVL) 2019 Open Conference champions Creamline Cool Smashers will be represented by national athletes Alyssa Valdez and Jia Morado with teammates Jema Galanza and Kyla Atienza, while 2019 Reinforced Conference champions Petro Gazz Angels will be represented by Cherry Nunag, Jonah Sabete, and Chie Saet. Joining them in the roundtable are UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball champion Ateneo Lady Eagles’ setter Deanna Wong and middle blocker Maddie Madayag, who also represented the country in the SEAG. As in previous years, ABS-CBN Sports has been delivering the inspiring stories of Filipino athletes through its coverage of tournaments in various local and international leagues on multiple media platforms including S+A on TV, S+A HD, LIGA, and LIGA HD on cable, and online on iWant, sports.abs-cbn.com, and the ABS-CBN Sports social media accounts and YouTube channel. In 2020, the sports arm of the country’s leading media and entertainment conglomerate will continue to highlight the greatness and positive values of Filipino sports idols and icons. Don’t miss “The Score: Best of 2019” two-part special on December 30 and 31, 6 pm on ABS-CBN S+A and S+A HD. Watch online on iWant. For sports news, follow @ABSCBNSports on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter or visit sports.abs-cbn.com. For updates, follow @ABSCBNPR on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter or visit www.abs-cbn.com/newsroom......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 30th, 2019

New Stars and New Eras: A look back at MMA in 2019

2019 was once again a pretty eventful year in terms of mixed martial arts, especially on the local front. In 2019, we saw Pinoy stars rise and fall, and some have managed to rise again before the decade’s end. Before we look forward to 2020, let’s take a look back at some of the biggest storylines in the world of Filipino, Asian and international mixed martial arts.   Team Lakay’s Troubles 2019 kicked off with not one, not two, but five world champions from the famed Filipino MMA stable Team Lakay. Pinoy MMA icon Eduard Folayang was on his second run as the ONE Lightweight World Champion, Kevin Belingon was enjoying his status as the ONE Bantamweight World Champion, Geje Eustaquio reigned over the flyweight division as the ONE Flyweight World Champion, and rising star Joshua Pacio, the ONE Strawweight World Champion, was the team’s youngest titleholder. Outside ONE, Stephen Loman continued on his reign as the BRAVE CF Bantamweight World Champion. And then, the dominoes began to fall. Pacio was the first to drop his title, losing a close split decision to Japan’s Yosuke Saruta. Eustaquio followed suit, dropping a controversial decision to rival Adriano Moraes, and then Folayang and Belingon would also lose their titles in heartbreaking fashion at ONE: A New Era in Japan. It was, to say the least, a rough start to the year for the Benguet-based team, but they would manage to bounce back before the year was done, with Folayang and Eustaquio both claiming wins to end the year.   The Rise of "The Passion" 23-year old prodigy Joshua “The Passion” Pacio was the youngest member of Team Lakay to hold a title heading into 2019, and heading into 2020, he remains the lone member of  Team Lakay to hold a ONE world title. After losing to Yosuke Saruta in January, Pacio was granted an immediate rematch and made good on the second opportunity by blasting Saruta with a head kick to score the KO and reclaim the ONE Strawweight World Championship. Pacio would then take on the clear-cut number one contender in fellow Pinoy Rene “D’ Challenger” Catalan, and make quick work of him as well, scoring a second-round submission win to retain the title. Even before the end of the year, Pacio already has his next assignment, as he’s set to face former champion Alex Silva at ONE: Fire and Fury in Manila on January 31st. A win for Pacio cements his status as one of, if not, the best ONE strawweight ever. While Team Lakay’s 2019 was, for the most part, a struggle, Pacio was no doubt the Team’s brightest spot.   A New Era 2019 proved to be another milestone year for Asia-based martial arts promotion ONE Championship, as they were able to penetrate new markets in terms of live shows as well as broadcast deals. ONE began the year with a new partnership with Turner Broadcasting, which gave North American fans access to ONE’s brand of martial arts through B/R Live and TNT. In terms of live events, ONE was able to finally plant their flag in one of the biggest markets for MMA in the world, Japan. In March, ONE put on their first ever show in Japan, ONE: A New Era in Tokyo, which featured some of the promotion’s biggest names including  Demetrious Johnson, Eddie Alvarez, Shinya Aoki, Angela Lee, Aung La N Sang, Eduard Folayang, and many more. To celebrate their historic 100th event, ONE returned to Tokyo for ONE: Century, their biggest card ever, featuring seven world title bouts and the promotion’s biggest stars, and then some.   In 2020, ONE plans to break through to even more new markets, possible including a show in the United States.   The ‘Return’ of Jon Jones While Jon Jones officially reclaimed his spot at the top of the UFC’s light heavyweight division in December of 2018, it was in 2019 that he returned to his dominant ways. After stopping Alexander Gustafsson in 2018 to reclaim the UFC Light Heavyweight crown, Jones handily defeated tough challengers in Anthony Smith and Thiago “Maretta” Santos to retain the titles. While the Smith and Santos bouts were lackluster in the eyes of many, it showed that even on his bad days, Jon Jones is better than most people on their best days.   “Rush” Retires Again While it was something that was expected, 37-year old Georges St-Pierre officially retired from MMA, again, in February. The former long-time welterweight king and pound-for-pound great made a triumphant return to the UFC in 2017, dethroning Michael Bisping to become the new UFC Middleweight Champion. GSP would never get to defend the title, as he would relinquish it not long after due to concerns with ulcerative colitis. While GSP has remained inactive since, the whispers of a super-fight with reigning UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov remain present, and 2020 could possibly see that coming to fruition.   Grand Prix Greatness In 2019, ONE Championship introduced a new and exciting attraction, the ONE Lightweight and Flyweight World Grand Prix tournaments.  Eight of the best fighters from each division would battle it out in a tournament-style competition, and the winner would become the ONE World Grand Prix Champion and earn a title shot against the division's respective titleholder.  Making their debuts in the lightweight and flyweight tournaments were former UFC champs Eddie Alvarez and Demetrious Johnson respectively, and as it played out the two would have very different outcomes.  Alvarez saw himself get upset in the quarterfinals by Russian knockout artist Timofey Nastyukhin. The former UFC lightweight king would get another chance in the tournament after defeating Eduard Folayang in a last-minute semifinal matchup, but another injury would keep him out of the finale at ONE: Century in Tokyo. Reigning ONE Lightweight World Champion Christian Lee ended up stepping in on short notice to defeat tournament favorite Saygid Guseyn Arslanalieve and become a double-champion.  Johnson, meanwhile, breezed through his quarterfinals and semifinals bouts to set up a finale showdown with Filipino star Danny Kingad. In the Finale, Kingad fought valiantly but ultimately fell to Johnson via Unanimous Decision, setting up a must-see matchup between DJ and reigning ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano Moraes in 2020.    Baddest Motherf**ker Jorge Masdival has long been a staple in the UFC’s lightweight ranks for years, but it wasn’t until 2019 that “Gamebred” made headlines. After a hiatus in 2018, Masvidal returned with a bang in 2019, knocking out former title challenger Darren Till, and then followed that up with a 5-second flying knee knockout over former ONE Welterweight king Ben Askren. The popularity and momentum that Masvidal had garnered was enough to bring a certain Stockton star out of retirement and that set up one of the most talked-about UFC title bouts in 2019: Masvidal vs. Nate Diaz for the title of Baddest Motherf**ker. Masvidal lived up to the name and pieced Diaz up with strikes in the early rounds, before eventually opening up a cut that was just too big for the fight to go on. Much to the dismay of Masvidal, Diaz, and the crowd in New York, the fight was stopped. Still, it was nothing short of a testament to just how dangerous the new and improved version of Jorge Masvidal is. Expect him to challenge for a title in 2020.   MMA stars shine in 2019 SEA Games A number of Pinoy mixed martial artists showcased their skills in different battlegrounds during the recently-concluded 2019 Southeast Asian Games, which was held in the Philippines. from November 30 to December 11. Reigning URCC champion Mark “Mugen” Striegl took home gold in Combat Sambo, while former ONE title challenger Rene Catalan settled for Silver after an injury dashed his dreams of getting gold. Another URCC veteran in Ariel Lee Lampacan also took home SEA Games gold, this time in the Muay Thai competition. ONE Super Series veteran Ryan Jakiri took home silver. The SEA Games kickboxing event saw three MMA stars from Team Lakay take home gold medals, as Gina Iniong, Jerry Olsim, and Jean Claude Saclag all reigned over their respective divisions. Iniong, of course, is a ONE Women’s Atomweight contender, while Olsim is a veteran of Rich Franklin’s ONE Warrior Series. Saclag, meanwhile, is one of Team Lakay’s representatives in the Japan-based promotion Shooto.       .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 24th, 2019

UAAP 82: Chauca on Adamson s sorry loss to UP: This is a heartbreaker

ANTIPOLO - Adamson University was well on its way to finally getting the University of the Philippines monkey off its back in the UAAP 82 Men's Basketball Tournament. In the last seven minutes and with the Fighting Maroons rallying, Sunday at Ynares Center here, however, Val Chauca went missing. Taken out of his game by State U's pressure, the one-and-done star only had two points and turned the ball over three times to see his side fall victim to a 21-5 killer run by their opponents. When the final buzzer sounded, Adamson lost to UP, 77-81. And when the final buzzer sounded, all Chauca could do was look down at the floor and wonder what could have been. "I pretty much worked my whole life to get to this point and this is a heartbreaker," he told reporters. "This one hurt a lot." Once he got to freshen up and change clothes, the Filipino-Peruvian acknowledged that the loss fell on his shoulders. "I just turned the ball over a lot. As a veteran, coach Franz [Pumaren] expects a lot more leadership so this is on me," he said. He then continued, "I take full responsibility. I'm a veteran on this team and I can't make mistakes like that." And so, Chauca vows to only be better moving forward - especially whenever the Soaring Falcons are clinging on to a lead. "Today, in the fourth, I was thinking more of killing the clock instead of playing basketball. When we start doing that, you're gonna make bad decisions," he shared. He then continued, "So I think, I should stay aggressive whether it's the third or fourth quarter. That way, I can make more deliberate decisions." The 5-foot-10 playmaker has no time to lose to do just that as the San Marcelino-based squad is now in a virtual must-win situation if it is to stay alive and kicking. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 20th, 2019

Lito Adiwang happy and honored to receive praise from boss after ONE: Century debut

Filipino strawweight prospect Lito “Thunder Kid” Adiwang of Team Lakay made his official ONE Championship debut on the preliminary card of ONE: Century Part 1, Sunday morning at the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan, and immediately, he made an impact.    The 26-year old Adiwang, who earned a ONE contract after three straight victories in ONE Warrior Series, was primarily seen as a striker, but showcased a different facet of his game in his first foray into the big stage.    Matched up against a crafty veteran grappler and former Pancrase champion in Japan’s Senzo Ikeda, Adiwang proved that he can grapple as well, executing a beautiful judo throw straight into a keylock that ultimately spelled the end.    Ikeda ended up suffering an arm injury, leading to the TKO win for Adiwang.    It was the lone bright spot for an otherwise rough night for the Pinoy contingent in Tokyo that night, and Adiwang’s spectacular debut earned praise from ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong.    “I was blown away by Lito’s performance. He had a very very tough opponent, Senzo Ikeda is obviously a Pancrase champion, a very very tough warrior,” Sityodtong said during the post-event press conference. “I thought that fight was going to go three full rounds of both guys going all out, so I was shocked by that Judo throw immediately to a keylock, I was blown away. Incredible performance, so I think that’s the perfect debut you could ever ask for, especially coming off ONE Warrior Series.”  #ONECentury | @yodchatri says he was “blown away” by Lito Adiwang’s #ONEChampionship debut pic.twitter.com/KIJNJ42uh4 — Santino Honasan???? (@honasantino) October 13, 2019   Adiwang joins a growing list of ONE Warrior Series graduates who are looking to do big things in their ONE careers, bannered by none other than two-sport world champion Stamp Fairtex of Thailand.    Adiwang’s impressive debut, Sityodtong believes, is just the beginning of what could be a very good ONE career.    “That’s why we have ONE Warrior Series, right? Rich Franklin scouring the entire world for the next and best prospects that could make it up to ONE Championship. Lito has a Cinderella fairy tale story, so let’s see how far he can go, but definitely, with Team Lakay and Mark Sangiao, I think the sky is the limit for Lito.”   For his part, Adiwang was happy to hear that his hard work and his efforts have not gone unnoticed.   "I feel very happy and honored na, at least they notice the hard work that I’ve put in through all the training and all the performances I’ve delivered, so I’m very thankful and honored," he expressed......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 15th, 2019

Barbosa goes undefeated, wins in New York

Filipino Grandmasters Oliver Barbosa and Mark Paragua continued to reap honors for the country when they finished first and second in the New York State Championships 2019 in Albany, New York......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsSep 3rd, 2019

GMs Barbosa, Paragua register podium finishes in New York chess tiff

Filipino Grandmasters Oliver Barbosa and Mark Paragua continued to reap honors for the country abroad as they finished second and third in the New York State Championships 2019 in Albany, New York......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsSep 3rd, 2019

PVL: Creamline, eight other teams battle for crown and glory in Open Conference

Star-studded Creamline will face a tough field in its title-retention bid with eight other squads including three newcomers raring to knock the crown off the Cool Smashers’ heads when the Premier Volleyball League Season 3 Open Conference begins on August 11. The season-ending tournament will feature nine teams with the return of Philippine Air Force, which skipped the Reinforced Conference, and the introduction of two new squads in ChocoMucho and Chef’s Classics. The Cool Smashers, who are bannered by three-time conference Most Valuable Player Alyssa Valdez and top setter Jia Morado, are expected to go all-out to protect their throne after relinquishing the Reinforced conference title to PetroGazz weeks back. Creamline will have redemption as its motivation in the tournament that will open earlier than its usual schedule in deference to the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games in November. “Babawi talaga kami,” vowed Valdez. “Going to the second conference, all-Filipino, hindi ko sinasabi na we’re all equal but ang sinasabi ko lahat ng locals magtatrabaho kasi gusto naming manalo,” added the Cool Smashers team captain. “I think that’s the beauty of all-Filipino talaga makikita natin ang talent ng kapwa nating mga Filipino.” But the road won’t be an easy one for the Creamline. Back to complete a season sweep are the Angels led by solid middle Jeanette Panaga and Cherry Nunag with hitters Jonah Sabete, Paneng Mercado and playmaker Djanel Cheng. Fresh from a bronze medal finish in its maiden campaign, veteran-laden PacificTown Army is a considered as one of the top contenders so does BanKo, which will parade power-hitters Nicole Tiamzon and Dzi Gervacio. With a healthy Myla Pablo back to lead a young and dynamic Motolite side, the Air Padda-mentored squad could finally break out from its shell to surprise the lead just like BaliPure, which is looking to improve from its last place finish in the season-opening tournament.    Back in the fold are the Jet Spikers, bringing their veterans back after a one-conference hiatus. ChocoMucho, Creamline’s sister team, will try to live up to its pre-conference hype as Flyin Titans march into battle with former Ateneo de Manila University stars Kat Tolentino, Bea de Leon and Maddie Madayag leading the way while another expansion team Chef’s Classics is out to make its mark in the league. Meanwhile, the league will also hold the Collegiate Conference with more than 10 teams expressing their intentions to participate.    --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 31st, 2019

NEXT IN LINE? Yeng Guiao sees Kiefer Ravena as a successor to elite Filipino point guards

The Philippine Men’s National Basketball Program has seen a number of elite playmakers during its time, and in recent memory and in recent memory, the likes of Jimmy Alapag and Jayson Castro are top of mind. Alapag helped lead the Philippines to their first FIBA World Cup berth in 2014, and starred in a number of big-time moments for the tri-colors Like Alapag, Castro has also excelled in international play and is widely regarded as Asia’s Best Point Guard. But as the Philippines gears up for another FIBA World Cup appearance this year, the program has seemingly lost the services of their chief playmaker, with Castro begging off from National Team duty to focus on his family. With the 2019 FIBA World Cup just around the corner, Gilas is now searching for their next floor general, and while Castro and his presence is undeniably irreplaceable, head coach Yeng Guiao believes that there is enough new blood that can help fill the void. “Wide open yan talaga, they have to earn that spot,” Guiao told ABS-CBN Sports, referring to Gilas' starting point guard spot.  While there is indeed a talented crop of point guards in the Philippines, Guiao has pinpointed Kiefer Ravena as a strong candidate, but maintains that it is still something that he needs to earn. “Although of course, Kiefer is a high likelihood that he’s going to be in the regular team, earning the number one spot is a different case. He has to fight it out with Paul, with Mark Barocca, even with the new guys, hindi natin alam kung ano ipapakita niyan.” Ravena rejoined National Team practice Monday evening after sitting out for nearly a year and a half due to a FIBA-imposed suspension. The suspension will be lifted on August 24th, a week before the start of the FIBA tournament. Guiao is confident that Ravena and the other Gilas hopefuls can step into the role that Castro has given up. “Tapos na ng suspension niya by August 24 eh, so ang calculation ko is yung spot ni Jayson, as much as we will miss him, as much as he has contributed a lot to the cause of the National Team, these are able guys, Kiefer particularly, who will show their true worth in the absence of Jayson. Kahit na malaki yung void na naiwan, I think these young guards coming in, especially Kiefer, are going to be able to fill it out.” The veteran mentor even believes that Ravena has what it takes to follow in the footsteps of other elite Filipino point guards such as Alapag, Castro and the ones that have come before. “For sure. I have no doubt, he is going to be the successor to those guys.” “Number one, he is smart. He has a very high basketball IQ. Number two, he has leadership qualities, yung nakikinig sa kanya yung mga kasama niya, as young as he is, he is relatively young, nakikinig sa kanya pati yung mga beterano. Number three, he has the physical tools,” Guiao explained. “I would have wanted him to be two or three inches taller, pero kahit na hindi, I think he has the tools to play that position as well, and I think he is as big or a littler taller than Jayson, so wala tayong problema sa physical tools niya.“ Apart from missing Ravena’s services in the National Team, Guiao has also missed the former UAAP champion and MVP’s services in the professional ranks with the NLEX Road Warriors. Having Ravena back on the floor, even just for practice for now, Guiao says, is definitely a welcome sight. “I saw him play, this is what we’re missing in NLEX. This is what we’re missing in the National Team. He could have played side-by-side with Jayson actually kung available siya. Nung nakita ko siya now, after not playing for one-and-a-half years, and he’s still this good, can you imagine kung naka-laro lang siya? Gumaling pa sana siya.” Ravena will be back with NLEX for the PBA's third conference, the Governor's Cup later this year. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 25th, 2019

The ten most intriguing NBA free agents for 2019

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com We knew that the postseason would affect free agency. But the idea was that the success or failure of certain teams would affect what their free agents' thoughts about staying or leaving. Unfortunately, the last two games of The Finals brought devastating injuries to two of the three most coveted free agents on the market. Kevin Durant, arguably the best player in the world, tore his Achilles in Game 5, just 12 minutes into his return from a calf injury. And Klay Thompson tore his ACL in Game 6. The two injuries will certainly have repercussions beyond the two players and the Golden State Warriors. Maybe they already have. With the Western Conference seemingly wide open next season, the Los Angeles Lakers have reportedly made a deal for Anthony Davis, sending a bevy of young players and future picks to New Orleans so they can team the 26-year-old star with 34-year-old LeBron James ... and maybe another star added in free agency. As always, the free agent market and the trade market are tied together. The pending Davis trade could affect the decisions of players and teams come July 1. And if teams miss out on the free agents they're seeking, they could always fill their cap space by making a trade. With all that in mind, the players listed below aren't necessarily the 10 best free agents (or potential free agents). They're the 10 (actually 12) most interesting in regard to where they're going and what kind of contract they get. For players to be on this list, there needs to be some intrigue regarding their (and/or their team's) decision this summer. That's why Thompson isn't included. 1. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto (Player option) Whether he leaves or not, trading for Leonard last summer was well worth it for the Raptors, who won their first championship, with Leonard averaging 30.5 points per game in the postseason. The Raptors' "load management" program (which limited Leonard to just 60 games in the regular season) clearly worked, and director of sports science Alex McKechnie should be seen as a major asset in the quest to keep Leonard in Toronto. There should be a "run-it-back" sentiment for the new champs, with Danny Green also a free agent and Marc Gasol holding a player option this summer. A short-term deal would make sense, unless Leonard is looking for long-term security, having missed almost all of the 2017-18 season with a leg injury. It's all up to Leonard, maybe the toughest player in the league to read. If he takes his two-way talent elsewhere, the Raptors may have to go in a new direction. Number to know: In the postseason, Leonard had a true shooting percentage of 69.1 percent, the highest mark for a player that averaged at least 30 points per game in the playoffs and won the championship. 2. Kevin Durant, Golden State (Player option) Durant's torn Achilles probably won't scare any team, including the Warriors, from paying him as much as possible. As deep and talented as this free agent class is, the top two guys on this list are in a class by themselves. Rumors have long had Durant ready to leave Golden State and even with his injury, he seems more likely than Thompson to find a new home. But an ESPN report had Thompson's father talking about "unfinished business" after overhearing a conversation between the two injured Warriors. Durant could always put free agency off for a year by exercising his player option and remaining on the Warriors' payroll through his rehab. Number to know: Durant was the first player in NBA history to average 30 points per game in at least 10 playoff games while shooting at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line. 3. Kyrie Irving, Boston The disappointment of the Celtics' season, along with Irving's questionable leadership with a group that underachieved, has taken some of the shine off his star. Irving's injury history also must be taken into consideration. But talent is the most important thing in this league and Irving is one of its most talented players. He's still just 27-years-old and he can still get buckets when buckets are needed. A return to Boston appears far less likely than it did six months ago (especially with Davis being traded elsewhere) and there have been a lot of signals that Irving is bound for Brooklyn. Number to know: In the regular season, Irving had an effective field goal percentage of 56.1 percent with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, the second-best mark among player with at least 50 clutch field goal attempts. 4. Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, Philadelphia The Sixers lost to the eventual NBA champions on a Game 7 buzzer-beater that bounced on the rim four times before falling through. They're right there. But their starting lineup, which outscored its opponents by more than 21 points per 100 possessions in 334 total minutes (regular season and playoffs), includes three free agents. In regard to future assets, the Sixers didn't give up as much for Butler as they did for Harris. And of course, Butler has more baggage in regard to accepting his role. But, with his defense and his ability to get his own shot, he's is the most important of the three. Harris struggled a bit in the conference semifinals against Toronto and is the least important of the Sixers' three free-agent starters; J.J. Redick's shooting was clearly more critical in the postseason. But Harris isn't easily replaceable and he appears to be the most likely to leave, with a lot of teams looking for versatile forwards. Number to know: In the regular season, Harris shot 41.3 percent on pull-up three-pointers, the second-best mark among 69 players who attempted at least 100. 5. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Walker has expressed some level of loyalty to the Hornets. But immediately after the Davis trade was agreed to, there was a report that Walker would be a "top target" of the Lakers with their cap space. Walker would be an ideal offensive complement to James and Davis, in that he can play off the ball (though he shot less than 35 percent on catch-and-shoot three-pointers last season) and take some of the playmaking burden off of James' shoulders. The Hornets, meanwhile, would likely have a tough time upgrading their roster around Walker, with Nicolas Batum, Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller all under contract next season for a total of $85 million. Number to know: Walker led the league with 126 field goal attempts with the score within five points in the last five minutes. That was 43 percent of the Hornets' total (295). His effective field goal percentage on those shots (49.6 percent) ranked 15th among 45 players with at least 50 clutch field goal attempts. 6. D'Angelo Russell, Brooklyn (Restricted) A finalist for the Most Improved award, Russell took a big step forward this season, both in regard to his production and his maturity. He earned himself an All-Star appearance and helped the Nets reach the playoffs with a 14-win increase from last season. He's only 23-years-old and is one of the league's most flammable shooters. But because he doesn't get to the basket or the free throw line very often, Russell is neither all that efficient (his true shooting percentage of 53.3 percent ranked 66th among 94 guards with at least 500 field goal attempts) nor consistent, and he struggled (shooting 36 percent) in Brooklyn's first-round loss to Philadelphia. If the Nets are targeting another ball-handler in free agency (with Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie already under contract), they'll probably let Russell head elsewhere. Number to know: In the regular season, Russell ranked second with 11.4 pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions per game. He scored 0.89 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, the 26th best mark among 44 players that averaged at least five ball-handler possessions. 7. DeMarcus Cousins and Kevon Looney, Golden State Cousins hadn't made it back to 100 percent from his Achilles tear before he suffered a torn quad in his second career playoff game. He made it back for The Finals from that injury and showed flashes of his old self with 14 important points in the Warriors' Game 5 win and a big bucket in the final minute of Game 6. But he also struggled on both ends of the floor at times, and the Warriors were outscored with him on the floor in seven of his eight playoff games. Now he goes back on the free agent market with teams still not sure of what they're getting. Looney is an unrestricted free agent at 23-years-old, and he was the Warriors' most important center this season. The Western Conference champs have Looney's Bird rights, but they could also be spending a lot of money to retain Durant and Thompson (and possibly extend Draymond Green). Another team might have a larger role and more money for an improving young big. Number to know: In the regular season, the Warriors' lineup of Curry, Thompson, Durant, Green and Looney scored 121.5 points per 100 possessions and outscored opponents by 18.7 per 100. Those were the best marks for points scored and point differential per 100 possessions among 40 league-wide lineups that played at least 200 minutes together. 8. Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee (Restricted) The Milwaukee Bucks were the best team in the league through the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals. But, with four of their top eight players being free agents (or potential free agents) this summer, they have a lot of work to do if they want to keep Giannis Antetokounmpo surrounded by players who can get it done on both ends of the floor. Brogdon, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez are the three key pieces. They're all due a pay raise and they all belong on this list. Brogdon is the restricted free agent, but he's also the youngest of the three (he'll be 27 in December) and the one that could be projected into a larger role on another team. Number to know: Brogdon shot 47.5 percent on catch-and-shoot three-pointers, the third-best mark among 223 players who attempted at least 100. 9. Julius Randle, New Orleans (Player option) After five years in the league, Randle is still just 24-years-old. So he's not necessarily a bad fit for David Griffin's plans for the future in New Orleans. But the Pelicans might not be ready to commit the money Randle is seeking (should he opt out of the final year of his contract) after averaging a career-high 21.4 points per game. Defense remains an issue, but Randle has expanded his offensive skill set; he was a respectable 34.4 percent from three-point range this season, taking 18 percent of his shots from beyond the arc (up from six percent over his three previous full seasons). Number to know: Randle averaged 13.2 points in the paint per game, seventh most in the league, and he made more three-pointers (67) than all but one of the six players in front of him. 10. Ricky Rubio, Utah According to Rubio himself, he's not Utah's top priority in free agency. He remains a good defender and one of the league's best passers, but the Jazz need to get more potent offensively if they're going to take the next step. At 31.1 percent, Rubio ranked 153rd in three-point percentage among 163 players with at least 200 attempts. There could be as many as 10 teams (not including the Jazz) in need of a starting point guard this summer, and Rubio could have more value on a team more in need of a distributor. Number to know: The Jazz were 5.8 points per 100 possessions better offensively with both Rubio and Donovan Mitchell on the floor (scoring 110.4 per 100) than they were with Mitchell on the floor without Rubio (104.6). 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 NewsJun 17th, 2019

Warriors miss Kevin Durant, but do they need him?

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com PORTLAND, Ore. — Along with the equipment, uniforms, basketballs and the confidence that comes with being up 2-0 in the Western Conference finals, the Warriors brought along another piece of cargo to Portland and it is the heaviest of them all. It didn’t come packed in luggage or a box; instead, it’s just wrapped in a hunch and tied with a question mark, and it is this: When do the Warriors start missing Kevin Durant? [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] The back-to-back champs are now 3-0 in these playoffs without their superstar and his aching calf. And 4-0 overall in games in which Durant didn’t finish. That probably says something about the Rockets, and so far about the Trail Blazers — two teams unable to exploit his absence. However, while the (bleeping) Giants — Steve Kerr’s description of his undermanned team — are honorably playing with a sense of urgency, they aren’t buying the notion that they don’t need Durant. It’s an easy trap to fall into, to believe the outside chatter that they’re better off without him. The next two games, both at Moda Center, will either feed that belief or destroy it. Yes, because the Blazers must beat the Warriors four out of five to advance, there’s little to no chance of them denying Golden State a fifth trip to the Finals regardless of whether Durant shows up in this series or not. And that’s good for the visitors, since Durant didn’t make the trip for Games 3 and 4. “There's no mental adjustment,” said Kerr. “You just play. You go out there with what you have, and this is our third game, 3 1/2 games, really without him, and so we're just trying to hold down the fort. Hopefully he continues to progress and he has made progress, but it's a little more serious than we thought at the very beginning. So we'll see where it all goes, but he's in there all day long getting treatment. He's done a great job of committing himself to that process.” There’s a thought that, even if Durant was 80 percent, the Warriors will keep him benched to prevent a chance of re-injury, and that’s a wise decision with wide-ranging ramifications. By protecting Durant’s best interest here in this free agent year, the Warriors score big points with him and his camp less than two months before Durant must make a decision on his future. That said, what are the Warriors doing right to remain unharmed by his absence? The easy answer is they won championships without Durant and so this is more of the same-old, same-old. Except it isn’t. This actually might be more impressive. Understand that Golden State's system had to be changed here on the fly and in the middle of the postseason, not only to compensate for Durant’s 37 points per game in these playoffs, but also his defense. Once Durant was lost late in the third quarter of the fifth game of the second round, Kerr had to reach down his bench and rely on players who weren’t thrust into roles of significance and seldom saw fourth-quarter minutes up until this point. Meaning, Jonas Jerebko, Quinn Cook, Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell and Alfonzo McKinnie have either seen their minutes rise and/or their roles inflated in the process. Of course, most of the burden fell on the proven core: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. Each of those four, in his own way, is playing at a premium, even if it’s a small sample size. “That’s what it takes in the playoffs," said Kerr. "You have to have guys playing at a really high level.” Curry seems reborn or at least sprung free of a playoff fog where his numbers and production didn’t match his regular season. He finished strong in a pair of fourth quarters while closing out the Rockets and is the most impactful player in this series so far. He’s averaging 35 points on 51 percent shooting in the three games without KD. It wouldn’t be a stretch to suspect Curry is getting a charge out of this, and his ego, which he keeps hidden, is being fed. Thompson is now clearly the second option, whereas before he was often No. 3 and often only if his shot was falling. The green light never turns yellow without Durant around, like Curry, Thompson is working without handcuffs or a leash. After hitting 20 shot attempts once in the playoffs before Durant’s injury, Thompson is now hoisting 22 a game, good for a respectable 25-point average. The Warriors are constantly feeding him and running screens for him and urging him to take the shot, even if it’s contested. For a player who insists he’ll re-sign with Golden State this summer, Thompson is getting a taste of what life must be like if he played for, let’s say, the Clippers and was the focal point of the offense. “This team's been together a long time and they trust each other,” said Kerr. “When the ball starts moving, that's when we're tough to guard.” Green has never been better this season than in the last few weeks. Recharged after losing weight immediately following the All-Star break and no longer feeling pain in his previously-injured shoulder, Green is menacing on the defensive end where once again he’s guarding all positions except point guard and doing it marvelously. In addition, he’s pushing the ball up court to help Curry and Thompson stay as fresh as possible and directing the offense from the high post. He’s averaging 10 rebounds, 6.5 assists and three blocks without KD. “You know, we can't sit and look over our shoulder and say, `Hey, man, when is K going to be back?’ We just got to play with whatever we got,” Green said. “We got to play and give him an opportunity to get back, and I think that's what really falls on our shoulders. We're a very confident group. Hopefully he's back sooner than later, but as a guy who is in the battle every night, we can't sit and look over our shoulder and wonder when he or DeMarcus [Cousins] is coming back. We have to assume they are not coming back and play with what we got. Obviously, we are hoping that they do. But while they are not out there, we just got to play.” Finally, there’s Iguodala. He stayed hibernated all regular season while averaging career lows across the board. At age 35, it appeared time had finally caught up. Instead, this was a case of a crafty veteran preserving himself for springtime, and with the amount of talent on the Warriors, he could afford to do so. Iguodala had solid moments guarding James Harden in the second round and is among those trapping Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum this round. One of the signature plays of the series was Iguodala coming up with a walk-off strip of Lillard as time expired in Game 2. “You're kind of in awe of it because not many guys can make plays like that consistently,” said Curry. So this is where the Warriors are without Durant and also DeMarcus Cousins. They were good enough to stump the Rockets (again), then proved too much for the Blazers in a pair of home games. Nobody would be shocked if they take a game in Portland or maybe finish the sweep. It’s a luxury that few teams have or could pull off even if they did. This comes from a core that’s been together for six years, a coach pulling the proper strings and a bench that isn’t shrinking in the moment. “We feel like we can still win no matter who is out there on the floor, and that's why we're in the position that we’re in and have won championships with all the injuries and all types of stuff,” said Curry. “We know what the mission is, and we're on it right now.” These Warriors are playing flashback basketball to the time before Durant came aboard — and prepping themselves for next season, when and if Durant jumps overboard this summer. 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 NewsMay 18th, 2019

No need for Malone to sell Nuggets: Their time is now

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com PORTLAND, Ore. — Give Michael Malone credit, the Denver Nuggets coach is as relentless a salesman as there is in basketball. Whether it’s moving speeches delivered to his own team or pleading with television audiences to stand up and take notice of the splendid compilation of talent the franchise has stockpiled in recent years, he refuses to let up. From building the legend of Jamal Murray or waxing poetic about the virtues of Nikola Jokic, the nimble giant prone to triple-doubles on the regular, Malone is prepared to use the bully pulpit to make sure no one overlooks the Nuggets. [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] A seven-game series win over San Antonio in the first round produced some of Malone’s best stuff to date, including him trumpeting Jokic as not only a legitimate Kia MVP candidate (true, this season) but also a surefire future Hall of Famer (could be, the way he’s playing). So you had to know Malone was going to be on his Nuggets informercial grind after they refused to lose Sunday (Monday, PHL time) in Portland, bouncing back after losing a grueling four-overtime thriller to the Trail Blazers here Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) with a gritty 116-112 triumph to tie this series at 2-2 headed back to Denver for Tuesday’s (Wednesday, PHL time) critical Game 5. “I’m so proud of our group,” Malone said, after his talented crew showed off the chops needed to regain the homecourt advantage they surrendered in their Game 2 loss at Pepsi Center. “And in the closing moments, I really was confident because in close games this year we were 13-3 [in games] decided by three points or less, best record in the NBA. We’re 12-1 in the second nights of back-to-backs, best record in the NBA. Our guys are tough; to come in here and win this game some 36 hours after losing a four-overtime game speaks to just how tough we are. So I wasn’t worried, we had our starting group out there. “Jamal, who I thought was phenomenal tonight, goes 11-for-11 from the foul line in a hostile environment and really kind of with the series hanging in the balance. You go down 1-3, and we all know how that story ends. I think the confidence of doing the same thing in the first round against San Antonio helped us, but our guys stepped up. We never frayed. We stayed together. And I can’t speak enough about the resiliency and toughness of our team.” And he shouldn’t. The Blazers had won 12 straight games at home dating back to the regular season and were 22-2 on their home floor since January 5. When the Nuggets saw their 10-point lead shrink to just a point with 3:02 to play as Portland closers Damian Lillard (28 points) and C.J. McCollum (29) led the charge, Denver could have easily folded up under the emotional weight of Game 3 and their current predicament. But they proved to be as resilient and tough as Malone said they were. Jokic was brilliant again, collecting his fourth triple-double (21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists) in his first postseason, second only to the five Magic Johnson piled up during his rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers. And Murray was even better, finishing with a game-high 34 points and draining six straight free throws in the frantic closing seconds to seal the win for a Nuggets team that didn’t allow fatigue, a raucous and sellout Moda Center crowd or the pressure to avoid that 3-1 hole rattle them. “It wasn’t the first time,” Murray said of his embrace of the pressure with the game on the line at the line. “I think free throws are my thing. My dad and I do a lot of training [on] free throws. Blindfolded, he’ll talk to me just like how the crowd is, put pressure on me. I take 1,000 free throws in practice to make or or two … and tonight, it ended up being six.” The number Malone focused on afterwards was 11, as in the number of playoff games Murray and Jokic have played in as they continue to establish themselves as postseason stars. “You think about how young we are and and what we are doing, going on the road and winning a tough game in a hostile environment,” Malone said, “and for Jamal to be the centerpiece of that has been phenomenal. If you’re a Denver Nuggets fan, how excited are you about this team now. More importantly, how excited are you for our future? We have a chance to be a really good team for many, many years and Jamal is going to be a big part of that.” The same goes for Jokic, obviously. He’s already an All-Star and is going to end up on the All-NBA first or second team as well as the top five of the voting for Kia MVP after the regular season he put together. That might explains why the entire Nuggets bench froze as they watched him limp to the sideline in the final moments after being kneed in the leg in the final seconds. “Your heart skips a beat,” Malone said. “Nikola is the face of our franchise, but he just got kneed, it was nothing serious and and we were able to hold on for the win.” For all of Malone’s bluster about his group, it’s not even necessary at this stage of the season. The Nuggets earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoff chase on the strength of a talented and deep roster that might not resonate with casual NBA fans, but is celebrated by those in the know. Touting their accomplishments in real time makes sense for a coach trying to empower his team to believe in themselves in what could and perhaps should be a nice stretch of playoff runs in the future. But anyone paying attention can tell that the future could be now for these Nuggets. A trip to the conference finals one year after they failed to make the postseason field on the final night of the season in what amounted to a play-in game in Minneapolis last April, is a hell of a start. Malone knows it. His team knows it. And so do the Trail Blazers, who are well aware of the opportunity they squandered in a series where wavering confidence by the Nuggets might have been the only advantage they could exploit. “The good thing for us is that we won a game on their court,” Lillard said. “So it’s not like we lose both games there. We’re in a good space, 2-2, we know we’re capable of winning on their floor and that’t what we’ve got to get done. Obviously, it’s disappointing … we didn’t want to let an opportunity like this slip, but it happens. It’s playoff basketball and we’ve got to move forward.” So do the Nuggets, which is where Malone the master motivator comes into play. And just so we’re clear about something, his sell job is genuine. He knows of what he speaks in assessing a young team on the rise, having spent time coaching in Cleveland and Golden State during the formative stages with what would turn out to be teams that made it to The Finals (2007 in Cleveland). He was on Mark Jackson’s Warriors staff when they turned the corner from a lottery team to  playoff outfit (2012-13 season), helping nurture the core group of a team that has won three of the past four NBA titles and become a potential dynasty that no one saw coming at the time. So if Malone sees special things in his current team, it’s his responsibility to shout about it every now and then, both to the basketball public and especially internally. Youngsters like Jokic and Murray, Gary Harris and Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig and Monte Morris and even veterans like Paul Millsap, Mason Plumlee and Game 4 hero Will Barton, who knocked down huge shots to help seal the deal, need to hear the positive reinforcement from their coach. And that’s not even taking into account what absorbing these moments means for Michael Porter Jr., who is spending his rookie season recovering from back surgery, and is certainly going to be a part of that bright future Malone is so passionate about. If anything, this Nuggets team is ahead of schedule, two wins shy of a trip to the Western Conference finals with three games to play. Two of those are coming on their home floor, where Denver compiled the best record (34-7) in the league during the regular season. Maybe Malone is right to speak the Nuggets’ success into existence rather than wishing and hoping for it to come to fruition without a word otherwise. But he won’t have to go all car salesmen on the final day of month much longer. A couple more performances like the one the Nuggets put on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) and this whole thing, the refurbished franchise with all the boxes checked on the roster -- now and for the foreseeable future -- sells itself. 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 NewsMay 6th, 2019