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Warriors hopes hinge on Durant coming back

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — When Game 4 was over, while Toronto fans were waving Canadian flags in celebration inside an otherwise-stunned Oracle Arena, a glum-faced Kevin Durant was outside the Golden State locker room to greet equally glum teammates as they sauntered off the floor. That’s been his only visible role on game nights in the NBA Finals. If that doesn’t change Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), this series is probably going to end. With it, in that case, so would Golden State’s reign as NBA champions. And then it’s possible that Durant, a free-agent-in-waiting, has played for the Warriors for the last time. Durant limped off the floor at Oracle Arena a month ago — Game 5 of the second round — with what the team called a mild calf strain. It’s apparently the most severe “mild” calf strain in the history of injuries, because he hasn’t played since and there’s no way of knowing if that’s going to change on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). And the Warriors clearly need him if they’re going to pull off a comeback against the Raptors in these NBA Finals. “Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us at all,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “It’s just a matter of can we get it done or not, and we’re going to leave it all out there starting on Monday.” That’ll be the case, with Durant or not. Here’s reality: Any Durant is better than no Durant for the Warriors right now. His mere presence might throw the Raptors off just enough to create more chances for the rest of the Warriors. It’s really the only card the Warriors have left to play at this point. Toronto took full control of the series Friday night (Saturday, PHL time), winning 105-92 for a 3-1 finals lead. Durant wasn’t on the bench for Game 4, and hasn’t been since getting hurt. He’ll be on the plane Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) headed to Ontario, and his uniform will be packed inside the Warriors’ equipment bags. If it goes unworn again, the Warriors are in big trouble. “There’s been hope that he will come back the whole series,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “So that’s not going to change now. Obviously we hope to have him, but we’ll see what happens. We don’t make that final call ... he don’t really even make that final call. His body will tell him if he can get out there or not. And if he can, great. And if not, you still got to try to find a way.” They’ve been trying, with limited success. Even with Durant. The Raptors are 5-1 against the Warriors this season, even going 2-0 in the regular season when Durant scored 51 in one game and 30 in another. The Warriors just looked tired on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time), weary against a Toronto team that has had every answer in this series. They haven’t been able to muster the offense they need against Toronto. With Durant, that story could be different. But even if he plays on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), after not playing for a month, how good could he be anyway? Even someone as talented as Durant, who is in the conversation of “best player in the world” right now, can’t fake rhythm. Throwing him into an elimination game in the NBA Finals, after not playing for a month, is an unbelievably daunting ask. It might be what’s required. “We’re hoping he can play Game 5 or 6,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “And everything in between I’ve decided I’m not sharing because it’s just gone haywire. There’s so much going on, and so it doesn’t make sense to continue to talk about it. He’s either going to play or he’s not.” The Warriors will practice on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). With so much at stake, unless his calf muscle just won’t allow it, Durant will probably try to do something that day. It’s hard to believe that he doesn’t want to play, and the fact that he hasn’t been seen yet in this series just reiterates how not mild this “mild” strain was. A shot at a third straight ring is slipping away. Maybe it was gone the second Durant got hurt. When the Warriors swept Portland in the Western Conference finals, there was silly talk about how the team might be better without Durant. That talk is nonexistent now. Any team is better — a lot better — with Durant. And if he finds a way back to the court, the Warriors might just get a lot better in a hurry. Or else, this era could end Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). “We’ve got to win one game,” Green said. “We win one, then we’ll build on that.” Without Durant, winning that one game on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) might be too tough an ask, even for the Warriors......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnJun 8th, 2019

All-Decade Team: Some names to watch in 2020s

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com Picking the best players of the past decade can be a delightful process, a walk down memory lane that highlights the best of the NBA’s best from the most recently completed era. We took care of that for you earlier this week with NBA.com's All-Decade Team for the 2010s. Data and established success provide the context needed to make a strong case when you're looking back. But you can't rely on those conventions when trying to decide what, and perhaps more appropriately, who, comes next. Questions linger for the big stars of the 2010s who would normally transition into the next decade with similar status. How will Kevin Durant look when he comes back from a season lost to an Achilles injury? What will Klay Thompson’s game look like post-ACL injury? There’s no saying how the summer’s superstar free agent and trade shuffle will impact career trajectories for older stars like Durant (going from Golden State to Brooklyn) and Russell Westbrook (going from Oklahoma City to Houston). Young stars just entering the league (or still finding their way) are bound to emerge in the coming years. On the other hand, established veterans will see the inevitable fading of their star status. That uncertain future for so many is part of what makes today’s exercise so much fun. We are peering into our crystal ball and projecting the future, identifying the stars who, a decade from now, might find their names on the best-of-the best list for the 2020s. * * * * = players who made a 2010s All-Decade Team Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks * "The Greek Freak" finished off the 2010s with his first Kia MVP and should be poised to compete for more this decade. He’s only scratched the surface of his immense potential and should be in the thick of the race for best player of the decade. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors * One half of the sweetest shooting backcourts in NBA history, Curry and his fellow Splash Brother, Thompson, could make the next All-Decade Team, too. That would require them to prove they’re still playing championship-level basketball in the Bay Area post-Durant. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers * Davis is finally positioned to chase championships and will do so as he enters the physical prime of his career. With Davis and LeBron James leading the way, the Lakers begin the next decade poised for a return to legitimate contender status. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks The reigning Kia Rookie of the Year gave us all a preview of what’s to come. Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are the foundational players expected to fuel the Mavericks the way Dirk Nowitzki did the past two decades. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers If Embiid stays healthy, he’s good enough to challenge for the unofficial title of best player of the 2020s. His availability is the most critical component for a Sixers organization that believes it is on the cusp of championship contention. Paul George, LA Clippers * George has fully bounced back from his devastating leg injury in 2014, earning a place among the NBA’s elite by finishing third in the Kia MVP voting to close out the 2010s. The only thing left on his to-do-list is to make the championship dreams of Clippers fans a reality. James Harden, Houston Rockets * Finding a new groove alongside Westbrook will determine the Rockets’ championship fate and perhaps Harden’s legacy. Harden’s Hall of Fame status is secured. He just needs a title to complete his trophy case.   LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers * Could he win a Kia MVP in three different decades? LeBron has broken the mold in just about every way imaginable to this point of his career, so it would be foolish to doubt him. He’s also got a chance to add to his title haul in the next decade as well. As for Father Time … what does that matter? Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets After winning a title as the supporting star in LeBron’s homecoming story in Cleveland, Irving hopes to revisit that magic in Brooklyn once Durant is healthy again. While Irving has some repair to do to his reputation after his final season in Boston, his talent remains undeniable. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets Some would argue that Jokic (and not Embiid) finished the decade as the NBA’s best big man. The Nuggets are banking on it, as they’ve built their operation around the triple-double versatility of the 24-year-old All-Star known as “The Joker.” Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers * Leonard load managed his way to a title in Toronto but has already declared himself ready to play without limitations as he attempts to bring a championship parade to his hometown. He’s at the height of his powers right now and, with good health, will be for the foreseeable future. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers Lillard was noticeably absent from the 2010s All-Decade Team, but he shouldn’t have to worry about that happening in the 2020s. The face and soul of the franchise in Portland, Lillard knows that the next step for he and CJ McCollum is a Finals berth. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz If the addition of veteran Mike Conley has the impact Utah’s braintrust expects, Mitchell is primed to rise any ranking of the West’s (and NBA’s) top players. Don’t be surprised if he snags a scoring title (or two) in the next decade. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics With Kyrie Irving gone, Tatum and the Celtics can get back to the performances he provided during the 2018 playoffs as a rookie. The Celtics have refused to trade Tatum for a reason. He’s got the array of skills that a team values in a wing scorer. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks Any pre-Draft trepidation about Young was overturned after his strong finish to his rookie season. A splendid passer with Splash Bros.-type range, Young will grow and mature physically into the leader of a franchise revival in Atlanta. 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 NewsAug 8th, 2019

Analysis: Warriors’ hopes hinge on Durant coming back

OAKLAND, California — When Game 4 was over, while Toronto fans were waving Canadian flags in celebration inside an otherwise-stunned Oracle Arena, a glum-faced Kevin Durant was outside the Golden State locker room to greet equally glum teammates as they sauntered off the floor. That’s been his only visible role on game nights in the […] The post Analysis: Warriors’ hopes hinge on Durant coming back appeared first on Cebu Daily News......»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJun 8th, 2019

ABL Season 10 Preview

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 16th, 2019

17 NBA things that have been ghosted from memory

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com On a night traditionally known more for tricks and treats than picks and rolls, it seems appropriate to do a little ghost hunting, NBA-style. We’re not talking the Ghost Ballers of BIG3 fame or even the Skirvin Hilton Hotel in Oklahoma City, a stop on the circuit that some teams claim is actually haunted. We’re thinking of things that used to be, gone-but-not-forgotten aspects of the league that lurk in the memory, even if they’re never coming back. Here in no particular order are some Halloween hoops hobgoblins that fall somewhere on the scary scale between the chain-rattling Jacob Marley and Casper: 1. Long-gone arenas. Oracle Arena, so recently vacated by the Golden State Warriors, is the latest addition to the NBA’s long list of abandoned homes. Many are gone themselves, though you still can catch a glimpse now and then on Hardwood Classics. There are too many to list, due to NBA teams moving on up to bigger, better digs over time. But a sampling would include the Cow Palace, Cobo Arena, Chicago Stadium, Boston Garden, The Forum, L.A. Sports Arena, Milwaukee’s MECCA, the Salt Palace, McNichols Arena, HemisFair Arena, Market Square, the Summit, the Spectrum, the Omni, the Pyramid, ARCO Arena/Sleep Train Arena and on and on. 2. Belted shorts. Relegated to the throwback bin, along with the more recent sleeved jerseys. 3. The six-foot lane. Heck, the 12-foot lane. The former was widened in 1951 in response to Minneapolis big man George Mikan’s dominance. Then it was widened again in 1964 to its current 16 feet in hopes of tamping down Wilt Chamberlain’s impact. 4. Commercial air travel. Some things on a used-to-be list inspire nostalgia in those who experienced them and curiosity in those who didn’t. But it’s highly unlikely any former or current players and coaches would swap today’s luxury charter flights for the way the NBA used to travel. Wake-up calls at 5 a.m. for the first flight out. Waiting out delays at the gate with the beat writers and civilians. Seven-footers folding themselves into economy class seating. 5. Obstacle-course schedules. The NBA in recent years has tried to be responsive to players’ performance needs and physical limitations, working to minimize the number of back-to-back games and four-in-five-night stretches. Didn’t used to be that way. Consider the Baltimore Bullets, who in January 1966 were put through these paces: Games in St. Louis, Detroit, back to St. Louis, day off, to Philadelphia, to Boston, home vs. Lakers. A week later, they bounced back and forth between L.A. (Lakers) and San Francisco for four games in four nights, then traveled to New York to face the Knicks for their fifth game in five nights. Baltimore’s record in those 11 games: 2-9. 6. Doubleheaders. Some teams in the NBA’s first few decades would book a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition as the night’s opening attraction. But the biggies were when the Knicks would host at Madison Square Garden a neutral-site game for two other NBA clubs. A lingering memory for some who attended: The thick haze that hung over the arena’s upper reaches, courtesy of the smokers puffing away all evening. 7. Tape-delay. It seems inconceivable in 2019 that an NBA playoff game, never mind a Finals contest, might be shown on anything but live TV. Nope. The league didn’t have much leverage in the late 1970s, before Magic Johnson and Larry Bird arrived to help goose interest and ratings. Networks forced fans to stay up late to watch games that were off before the telecasts tipped off. The practice continued into the ‘80s, with four of six Finals games in 1981 held till 11:30 p.m. ET. Michael Jordan was already creating new fans when the last tape-delayed game, Game 3 of the West finals between the Lakers and Rockets, aired on Friday, May 16, 1986. 8. “Illegal!” That used to be a frequent bellow from the league’s benches, with coaches trying to alert the refs when opposing defenses breached (or didn’t) the complicated illegal defense rules. The NBA purged most of that around the turn of the century by legislating in zone play. 9. Shattered backboards. For a while, it seemed as if backboards were exploding every few weeks in the Association. Darryl (“Chocolate Thunder”) Dawkins was the most avid crack-titioner, getting two in 1979. The earliest recorded instance came in 1946, when a Celtics forward named Chuck Connors (later more famous as TV’s “Rifleman”) shattered one during warmups. Baltimore’s Gus Johnson is said to have shattered three. Shaquille O’Neal didn’t get the glass but twice got entire support structures, pulling the backboards down to the court in his rookie season. In March 1993, against Chicago, New Jersey’s Chris Morris dunked and shattered a board without glass falling to the floor. 10. Three to make two. That old free-throw bonus was abolished by 1981-82. It made the game drag, and Jerry Colangelo, then GM of the Suns and the chairman of the NBA’s competition committee, rightly said: “Pro players shouldn’t need that extra foul shot.” 11. Phantom franchises. Oooh, pretty scary, kids, when you think of all the teams that are no more. They are rattling around in the mind long after they were supposedly dead and buried. We’re not talking just about the antiquities such as the Indianapolis Olympians, the Washington Capitols or the Toronto Huskies. The spirits of the Seattle SuperSonics, Buffalo Braves, San Diego Clippers and Vancouver Grizzlies still walk the NBA earth. Then there are most of the ABA franchises -- Virginia Squires, Utah Stars, Kentucky Colonels, Spirits of St. Louis -- that died more than 40 years ago before or in the merger. 12. Hand checking. A lot of capable defenders had their effectiveness vaporized overnight when the laying on of hands vs. a ball handler was outlawed in 2004. The NBA, in case you hadn’t noticed, likes scoring. 13. Injury shenanigans. As silly or frustrating as labels like “DNP-Old” or “load management” seem today, the reporting of injuries real or feigned used to be much less authentic. Before the inactive list, there was “injured reserve,” to which NBA teams would designate up to two players. Anyone put on that list was sidelined for a minimum of five games, and with smaller roster sizes in effect, it was a handy place to stash guys. So there was a whole lot of tendinitis and plantar fasciitis going on. This practice was snuffed in 2005-06. 14. “Play on!” Like the force-out ruling, this is a remnant of the days when the referees had and used more discretion in working their games. If a player lost the ball out of bounds but his elbow was knocked by a foe, the force-out meant the ball handler’s team retained possession. “Play on!” was a frequent order barked by refs when certain contact or violations were deemed minimally intrusive. Heavier scrutiny of the game officials’ performance and, later, video reviews now try to adjudicate everything down to the tip of a fingernail. 15. The 2-3-2 Finals format. This was adopted in 1985 as a reaction to those Lakers-Celtics or Lakers-Sixers championship series, which had the NBA universe crossing the country four or five times in a span of two weeks. Suggestions that the league was being energy-conscious, in terms of jet fuel, were part of it, too. The practice fiddled some with the notion of home-court advantage, although MLB continues to use it for its World Series. With charter flights deployed by all teams, league execs and even some of the media, the NBA changed back to the 2-2-1-1-1 format in 2014 to align with its postseasons’ earlier rounds. 16. Player-coaches. Forty men in NBA history have done it. The first was Ed Sadowski of the Toronto Huskies in the Basketball Association of America precursor to the NBA. Only two men won championships as player-coaches: Baltimore’s Buddy Jeannette in 1948 and Boston’s Bill Russell in 1968 and 1969. The youngest player coach ever was Dave DeBusschere, who took over the Pistons in 1964 at age 24 (not long after ending his second career as an MLB pitcher). The Hawks’ Richie Guerin logged the most games (372) in the role, yet was named Coach of the Year in the one season in the middle when he stopped playing. Legend Lenny Wilkens was a player-coach for two teams, spending three seasons at it in Seattle and one in Portland. And the last player-coach in NBA history was Dave Cowens, who accepted the gig after coach Satch Sanders got fired in 1978-79. None of the players wanted to learn a new system, Cowens said, so “I kind of took one for the team.” The practice died with the arrival of the salary cap in 1984, with NBA brass wary that paying a coaching bonus might enable a team to circumvent the cap. 17. Victory cigars. For obvious reasons. Probably victory vaping, too. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 1st, 2019

Player Movement: What teams have gained, lost this offseason

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 18th, 2019

Summer League winds down, and now, maybe, some NBA rest

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press They'll hand out T-shirts to the Summer League winners following the championship game between Memphis and Minnesota in Las Vegas on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time), and then things will finally slow down a bit in the NBA. Maybe. And probably not for long. It's been a hectic month since Toronto won the NBA championship and the so-called offseason commenced. Already this summer, 18 current and former All-Stars have changed franchises, and that number will rise to 19 if Vince Carter finds a new home for his final season. Recent NBA Finals MVPs Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala all were among those on the move. And another three past finals MVPs — Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki and Tony Parker — all retired. So when next season begins, very little will look the same. "I think there's going to be a lot of parity," Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said. "That's my gut." NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expected this summer to be loaded with player movement, and wasn't complaining about so many big names — Durant, Leonard, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Jimmy Butler and many more — needing to file change-of-address cards. "At the end of the day, it's positive for the league," Silver said. "I will say, though, I'm mindful of this notion of balance of power, and I think it applies in many different ways. An appropriate balance of power between the teams and the players ... at the end of the day, you want to make sure you have a league where every team is in a position to compete." There were some clear winners in free agency: Brooklyn (who got Durant and Irving), the Los Angeles Clippers (who got George and Leonard) and the Los Angeles Lakers (who got Davis) were among them. It could be argued that the Oklahoma City Thunder won as well — no, they won't be as good this season as they were this past season after trading George and Westbrook, but general manager Sam Presti has enough draft picks now to enjoy flexibility for years. The losers are clear as well: Toronto lost Leonard and Danny Green and Golden State lost Durant, so last season's finalists certainly aren't favorites to be this season's finalists. It's also easy to say that New York lost after coming up empty on the big-name free agents, but the Knicks got plenty of good players on deals that ensure the team will have money again next summer. A lookahead at what's coming, and some notes on what's gone down: SO NOW WHAT? Any NBA withdrawal will really only last about three weeks, until roughly three dozen players return to Las Vegas for USA Basketball's training camp leading up to the FIBA World Cup in China that starts on Aug. 31. San Antonio's Gregg Popovich is coaching the Americans, assisted by Golden State's Steve Kerr, Atlanta's Lloyd Pearce and Villanova's Jay Wright. Zion Williamson, knee permitting, may take part in camp as one of the young players brought in to help the more-established pros get ready. If Williamson impresses, he may get a shot at joining the varsity club. Also, this season's NBA schedule is likely to come around the second week of August, if recent years are any indicator. WHO'S LEFT? Plenty of free agents remain unsigned, and that'll still be the case even in September as training camps get ready to open. It's still hard to see the Thunder keeping Paul, acquired in the Westbrook trade to Houston, so expect at least one more blockbuster trade before too long. Or can a player who is owed $121 million over the next three seasons be bought out? Stay tuned. Carter wants to come back for a 22nd NBA season, which would be a league record. If he gets into a game after Jan. 1, he'll also become the first NBA player to appear in four different decades. Jamal Crawford remains out there as well, and contenders should be calling him. LOADED WEST Philadelphia, Boston, Brooklyn, Indiana and Miami all likely got better in the East. Milwaukee kept most of its team that won an NBA-best 60 games. The East will be good. The West might be bloody. The Clippers, the Lakers, Houston, Golden State, Denver, Utah, Portland and San Antonio could end up as the eight playoff teams in the Western Conference. It's plausible; they're probably the most realistic eight picks right now. But at least four of those teams — most of them with superstar duos that are all the rage now — won't be in the second round of next season's playoffs. LONGEVITY AWARD For now, Golden State's Stephen Curry is the longest-tenured player under contract to one team. He's entering his 11th season with the Warriors. With Nowitzki (21 seasons with Dallas) retired, Mike Conley (12 seasons with Memphis) traded to Utah and Westbrook (11 seasons with Oklahoma City) traded to Houston, no current player has had a longer uninterrupted run with one team than Curry. But if Udonis Haslem re-signs with Miami, it'll be his 17th season with the Heat. THE NUMBERS Including the $196 million extension for Portland's Damian Lillard, a $170 million extension for Denver's Jamal Murray and another in-the-works $170 million extension for Philadelphia's Ben Simmons, NBA teams have committed to spend roughly $4 billion in new deals that were struck in the last three weeks alone. And that's with 100 more signings to come, at least. That $4 billion figure is twice what the total payroll was a decade ago for every team in the league, combined......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 15th, 2019

End of an era: Westbrook exits Oklahoma City

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com LAS VEGAS – Just when you thought it was safe to step out from under a doorway, another seismic tremble rumbled through the NBA Las Vegas Summer League Thursday evening (Friday, PHL time). Earthquake again? Nope, just more Thunder. Get your first look at the NBA’s top Rookies during NBA Summer League LIVE on NBA League Pass! Oklahoma City and general manager Sam Presti were back at it, this time reportedly sending former Kia MVP Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets for guard Chris Paul, first-round draft picks in 2024 and 2026, and pick swaps in 2021 and 2025. Six days earlier, OKC had stunned the pro hoops world by trading All-Star wing Paul George to the LA Clippers, serving up the co-star that coveted free agent Kawhi Leonard wanted as a condition of signing with Staples Center’s other NBA team. That deal yielded for the Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari and guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, along with five first-round picks and swap rights on two more. The biggest difference in moving Westbrook was that this one was anticipated. George had gone to Presti quietly after conspiring with Leonard, requesting the trade in a way that enabled the OKC GM to work behind the scenes. Presti had leverage on the Clippers, since he in essence was delivering both two-way stars – George and Leonard, who otherwise might have re-signed with Toronto – simultaneously. The deal Thursday (Friday, PHL time) paired Presti with Rockets counterpart Daryl Morey. Given their trade-happy track records, it wasn’t surprising that, if an NBA fan listened closely, he or she might have heard the sound of gods bowling. George’s departure and OKC’s subsequent trade of forward Jerami Grant to Denver made it clear which direction the Thunder were heading. Getting ousted from the playoffs’ first round for three consecutive years made the team’s $146 million payroll (and the luxury taxes it triggered) untenable. “People [within the league] knew they were going to do something pretty profound,” one GM told NBA.com earlier this week. “What they got for George was more than a king’s ransom. And if they end up trading Russell for all the tea in China, it will be the same deal again, right?” There were other suitors, most notably Miami, fueling speculation that Presti might not be done. How about Chris Paul to the Heat for expiring contracts, a prospect or two and more draft assets? As it is, the Thunder already have lassoed or retained an outrageous 15 first-round picks over the next six years. That sets up Oklahoma City ridiculously well, on paper, for the medium- and long-term. Short-term? Meh. A crew of Paul (if he stays), Gallinari, Gilgeous-Alexander, Andre Roberson, Steven Adams and Terrance Ferguson seems undermanned in the wild, wild West. But Presti has amassed enough picks that Thunder fans won’t have to worry about their favorite team tanking -- they can just root against the Clippers, the Heat and the Rockets in hopes of desirable draft positions. Westbrook deserves credit for spending the first 11 years of his career in an unglamorous, small-revenue market (though $168 million in NBA earnings had something to do with it too). He had two MVPs (Kevin Durant and James Harden) and one MVP candidate (George last season) leave via trade or free agency before he did. Now he has a chance, re-teamed with Harden in Houston, to step into the void opened by Golden State’s anticipated decline in 2019-20 (Durant’s departure from the Bay has something to do with that). The Rockets and Morey have to be on the clock, their extended window as championship contenders not likely to stay propped open for long. Westbrook and Harden, a tandem of past MVPs, should have most of their statistical and usage itches scratched by now. Each badly needs a ring on his resume. Paul, meanwhile, might find himself hooking up with Jimmy Butler with the Heat, a pairing that makes more sense than Butler-Westbrook at least in terms of basketball compatibility. Presti’s performance over the past 10 days or so has been “breathtaking,” according to the rival GM. But with so many folks in and outside OKC so eager to spin the Thunder’s picks and prospects forward, a nagging question remains: What should we make of their past? In Presti’s 12 seasons, beginning with the franchise still in Seattle in 2007-08, his team has won 50 games or more six times (counting the 47-19 equivalent in lockout-shortened 2011-2012). Over the Thunder’s first 10 seasons in Oklahoma, only the San Antonio Spurs won more often. The Thunder have reached the postseason nine times, winning 14 series. They lost the Finals in five games to Miami in 2012, and got bounced three times from the conference finals, once from the West semifinals and four times from the first round. There were injuries and close calls, sure, but those are a part of it for everyone. Drafting, Presti strung together Durant (No. 2 overall in 2007), Westbrook (No. 4, ’08) and Harden (No. 3, '09). His record deeper into the first round has been predictably mixed: Reggie Jackson (No. 24, ’11) and Adams (No. 12, ’13) on one side of the ledger, fellows such as Perry Jones (No. 28, ’12), Mitch McGary (No. 21, ’14) and Cameron Payne (No. 14, ’15) on the other. The Thunder’s two most notable trades prior to this summer involved Harden going out and George coming in. When they sent out Harden -- the league’s reigning Kia Sixth Man of the Year award winner in 2012 -- it was an anticipatory financial move that for a time kept them out of luxury tax trouble ... as well as the Finals. When Presti traded for George in 2017, the players he gave up, Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, had a better first season in Indiana than George in OKC. But as with Westbrook, Presti got George to sign a *cough* long-term extension, and the former Pacer finished third in MVP balloting this spring. So bottom line, which is it: Should the Thunder’s extended run as a contender in the West be applauded? Or should they be considered underachievers, considering the three MVPs they had – Durant in 2014, Westbrook in 2017 and Harden (with Houston) in 2018 – as well as George? OKC got a total of 25 seasons from those four players, 23 of them in tandem or as a trio. Only Durant as a rookie and Westbrook in 2016-17 worked as a solo act, star-wise. Those two plus George made a total of 17 All-Star appearances while playing for the Thunder, and in seven of the past nine seasons, OKC sent two to the February gala. That’s a lot of firepower for a fairly limited payoff (the lone Finals trip). So as excited as the Thunder and their fans might be for what’s headed their way, they’re right to feel melancholy over what’s done and now gone. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 12th, 2019

Leonard-George tandem turns Clippers into legit contender

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com At the moment of truth, Kawhi Leonard went against his persona and caused a shakeup that wasn’t so quiet after all. Quite stunning, actually, was the Friday (Saturday, PHL time) series of events that directly affected four teams, caused a major trade of unprecedented details, and influenced the NBA Finals MVP to sign a free agent contract with the Clippers and instantly turning a franchise without a banner into a hardcore contender. Get your first look at the NBA’s top Rookies during NBA Summer League LIVE on NBA League Pass! Leonard is now joined by Paul George, who finished third in the 2018-19 MVP balloting and who requested a trade from Oklahoma City at the 11th hour to essentially swap Russell Westbrook for Leonard. The Clippers are now bringing a pair of swingman who excel on both ends of the floor, giving them the sort of dynamic tandem that’s almost required to win a title these days. The price for George was steep — basically, the Clippers surrendered more for George than the Lakers did for Anthony Davis. They handed over a chunk of their future, with three unprotected first-round picks (2022, 2024 and 2026) belonging to the Clippers, a pair of coveted Heat first rounders (2021 unprotected and 2023 protected 1-14) that were owned by LA, and the option to swap first-rounders with the Clippers in 2023 and 2025. OKC also gets 20-year-old point guard Shai-Gilgeous Alexander and veteran shooter Danilo Gallinari. And so the Clippers drastically changed their personality in the span of a few years, replacing the “Lob City” era of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan with a feisty defensive club led by Kawhi, George, Pat Beverley and Montrezl Harrell. It’s also a team with three reputable scorers as well: Kawhi, George and Lou Williams. Imagine: The Clippers just upstaged the Lakers in an offseason where the Lakers added Davis to join LeBron James. Adding to the intrigue is the presence of Jerry West, the Laker Hall of Famer whose reign as general manager helped raise multiple banners, but whose touch as a consultant with the Clippers in this process is undeniable. Two summers ago when he joined the Clippers after serving the same role with the Warriors, it was West who persuaded the Clippers to trade Griffin, whom they just gave a maximum contract, to the Pistons. West believed Griffin’s best years were behind him and thought the Clippers would be better as a team with more salary cap flexibility going forward. Plus, West and GM Lawrence Frank traded Tobias Harris, the team’s leading scorer, to Philly at the February deadline rather than re-sign Harris this summer in free agency. All of this was done with the idea of signing an impact player in mind, and Leonard was that player and the Clippers’ top target over the last year. Leonard’s appeal to the Clippers was evident and easy to understand. He’s a player who can score 25 points and grab 7-8 rebounds and lock down his man on the other end of the floor. And of course, he just led the Raptors to a championship without being generously helped by a fellow superstar. Interestingly, Leonard had the option of having not just one, but two fellow superstars this summer had he chosen the Lakers. LeBron and Davis and Leonard would make for a championship favorite, especially when you add Kyle Kuzma to the mix. In the end, Leonard wanted to beat the Lakers, not join them. The Lakers still bring those three players, though, and will now garnish the team with minimum-waged players to fill out the roster. Already, Danny Green announced he’ll sign a two-year, $15 million deal with the Lakers, and Rajon Rondo is perhaps not far behind. Both the Lakers and Clippers could compete in the coming days for DeMarcus Cousins as well. The team harmed the most, at least in the immediate sense, is OKC. With the amount of top competitors in the West — Clippers, Lakers, Rockets, Nuggets, Jazz and Blazers among others — the Thunder likely will take a step back and could enter a semi-rebounding phase without George. Also: Could OKC be forced to part ways with Westbrook? The former MVP struggled at times last season and especially in the playoffs, and turns 31 in November, and is on a max contract. It’s not the type of atmosphere that fits Westbrook, who’ll soon enter his twilight. Thunder GM Sam Presti, if nothing else, has shown a willingness to do whatever it takes if it works for OKC. Lastly, there’s the Raptors, who must now go forward without their lone superstar. There are no other players on the level of Leonard that Toronto can chase this offseason. In addition, the core of their rotation is on expiring contracts — Marc Gasol, Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka. The Raptors will surely groom Pascal Siakam to take a lead role with Leonard gone, yet will face major decisions next summer as they attempt to reshape the team. All of this is because Leonard caused a domino effect that ultimately moved mountains. Something of this nature and this magnitude doesn’t happen often in the NBA and is never done virtually overnight, given the amount of pieces involved and teams who put their existence on hold while Leonard stretched his decision nearly a week since free agency began. Evidently there was a reason for that. He wanted the Clippers but only if they could add another major piece. When other options dried up — Jimmy Butler unexpectedly signing with Miami and Kevin Durant with Brooklyn, for instance — the Clippers had to go the trade route. And George had to be convinced by Kawhi to force a trade. And OKC had to agree to that, rather than risk going through a season with an unhappy player. When the Clippers coughed up a bevy for draft picks, that put the entire process in motion. And in the end, basketball in LA became the big winner. It would not be unusual or unexpected if the road to the next conference championship goes through Staples Center and gets decided by one of its two home teams. 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 NewsJul 6th, 2019

Durant, Irving make Nets the talk of the town in New York

By Brian Mahoney, Associated Press NEW YORK (AP) — Just three seasons ago, the Brooklyn Nets were the worst team in the NBA. On Sunday (Monday, PHL time), they were the story of the league. They agreed to deals with superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving as part of a sensational start to free agency, giving the longtime No. 2 team in New York top billing in the Big Apple. They landed two of the top players available, both perennial All-Stars and NBA champions, and they weren't finished. They also added center DeAndre Jordan, who played with Durant and Irving on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal, and veteran swingman Garrett Temple. It was such a powerful victory that the crosstown Knicks even put out a statement acknowledging their fans' disappointment, just three hours after shopping season had started. And it was even more remarkable given where the Nets were not long ago. An ill-fated trade with Boston in 2013, when the Nets acquired Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in hopes of competing for a championship but didn't even get out of the second round, cost them years of high draft picks and contributed to them becoming the worst team in the league. They bottomed out at 20-62 in 2016-17, when Durant won NBA Finals MVP in his first season with Golden State after the Warriors beat Irving's Cleveland Cavaliers for the title. Now those players will try to win one together. Irving, who grew up in New Jersey, said in a video posted Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) by his representation at Roc Nation Sports that he always wanted to play back home. Part of the video was shot with Irving on the Brooklyn Bridge. "I wouldn't change anything about this journey, at all," Irving said. "It's brought me back here and that's home, and home is where my family is. Home is where I want my legacy to continue. And, I'm happy to be in Brooklyn." .@KyrieIrving is home. pic.twitter.com/usvbxqkyZA — Roc Nation Sports (@RocNationSports) July 1, 2019 Roc Nation, which announced Sunday (Monday, PHL time) it is now representing Irving, said he had agreed to a four-year, maximum contract. Official: Kyrie Irving has agreed to a four-year maximum contract with the Brooklyn Nets. pic.twitter.com/bI7e09D9k6 — Roc Nation Sports (@RocNationSports) July 1, 2019 He might have to wait a year to play with Durant, who could miss next season while recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon. But with Irving taking controls of the offense and a promising young core around him, the Nets should be a playoff team, even while Durant recovers. The Nets got back to the playoffs last season after going 42-40, stamping themselves as a team on the rise. Brooklyn might be able to keep rising all the way to the top after Sunday's moves. Even after winning titles in his first two seasons with the Warriors, there was season-long speculation that Durant might leave. But much of that speculation had been focused on the Knicks, who had more than $70 million and the ability to sign two top free agents after trading Kristaps Porzingis during the season. Right city, but wrong team. The Nets felt confident with what they could offer, from their roster, to their medical staff, to their facilities. And when they made a cap-clearing trade last month, they became even more attractive by freeing up salary to bring in two stars. Irving wasn't expected to be one of them a few months ago, after he'd said last fall he planned to re-sign in Boston. But despite his good stats it was a bad season for him with the Celtics, who were considered an Eastern Conference favorite but instead lost in the second round. Irving became frustrated and reconsidered his plans, deciding his future was not in Boston, but in Brooklyn. Now he'll play for the team he watched while growing up in New Jersey, where the Nets played before moving to Barclays Center in 2012. Even when the Nets had better teams, the Knicks still got more attention and it sometimes felt as if they would always be the marquee team in the city. That changed Sunday (Monday, PHL time) in a New York minute. The Nets were not only the talk of the town but of the whole league, and when the Knicks were shut out early on, they took the rare step of commenting about their situation. "While we understand that some Knicks fans could be disappointed with tonight's news, we continue to be upbeat and confident in our plans to rebuild the Knicks to compete for championships in the future, through the draft, targeted free agents and continuing to build around our core of young players," Knicks President Steve Mills said in a statement. The Knicks eventually agreed to deals with forwards Julius Randle, Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis, so they did get something. Just nowhere near as much as the Nets......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 2nd, 2019

Rockets goal for next season is to get healthy and better, says James Harden

James Harden is coming off yet another MVP-caliber season, leading the Houston Rockets to another post-season berth, after what was a rocky start to the season.  Facing a litany of injuries to key players like Chris Paul and Clint Capela, Harden went on a historic run that saw him score 30-plus points in 32 straight games to pull the Rockets back into the playoff picture from an 11-13 record.  "Just the will, finding the will to win games," Harden said of his stellar streak. The 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player is currently in the Philippines for his two-day adidas Free To Harden Manila 2019 tour, and was able to answer some questions from the media, Wednesday.  "Throughout that 32-games, it was a stretch of scoring, throughout the other course of the games, it was maybe assists, it was maybe defense, a variety of things." "I think every game is it’s own challenge and you have to find ways to impact the games and try to win the games, and so, throughout the course of the season, you might have injuries, you might have guys out of the lineups, you can’t let that sidetrack you, you have to focus on winning that game, and that was kind of my mindset," he continued.  While the Rockets did make it back into the postseason, finishing with another 50-win season and the fourth seed in the tough Western Conference, they again saw their title dreams come to a crashing halt at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, who just a season prior, eliminated them in Game 7 the Western Conference Finals.  With the Warriors' spot at the top of the Western Conference now in question due to the looming free agency as well as injuries to key guys in Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, Harden says that the Rockets just need to get better to put themselves in a position to contend for the title again.  "Just get a little bit better, that’s all we can do, from an individual [standpoint], myself, Chris, Clint, PJ, Eric, all guys get a little bit better, and then for the front office to bring in more skilled, more talented guys that have championship nature and want to win into the locker room. [We need] to continue to put ourselves in that position," he explained. "I think two years ago, we were so successful, we were one game away from the Finals because we had vets, we had guys that’s been through it throughout the course of the league for a long time, they had longevity in the NBA, and then last year we just went through so much adversity as far as injuries and trades, and we fought through it and we still got to a top-4 seed in the west. [We just need to] keep healthy, keep getting better, and just try to put ourselves in a position to be successful," Harden added.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 26th, 2019

Kiefer Ravena looking forward to Governor s Cup as he re-joins NLEX in practice

Just hours after his first practice back with the National Team, Kiefer Ravena also re-joined his mother team, the NLEX Road Warriors, for practice, Tuesday morning at the FCL Center in Katipunan.  The 25-year old Ravena, the number two overall draft pick in the 2017 PBA, had his stellar rookie campaign cut short after being handed a suspension by FIBA for failing a random drug test in 2018.  The suspension encompassed not only Ravena's international play, but also his professional play here at home.  Now, with just two months left before his suspension is up and three months to go before he can return to the court with NLEX, Ravena is treating his first practice back like it was his first ever practice with the team.  "I treated it as a normal practice, just like my first day last year," Ravena shared with the media during a post-practice scrum. "I want to make it routine as possible, to hasten the process, to get back to my rhythm, especially, ibang team ‘to eh, NLEX ‘to eh, so every time na nandito ako, yung priority ko is to really think about what’s happening now first, and then pag nasa Gilas, sa hapon, yun naman ng pino-proseso ko." Apart from being able to return to basketball activities, Ravena said that he can also finally watch games as well, and he will be in the house on Friday when his Road Warriors take on Rain or Shine this Friday at the Araneta Coliseum.  "It was a good practice, we have a game on Friday against Rain or Shine. I’m excited to watch, it’s been a while since I’ve watched a basketball game. I’ll be there to watch and support the team." More than just finally being able to run with his squad, Ravena said he just missed simply being around his NLEX family.  "Yung trabaho mismo, yung pupunta ka dito, yung pupunta ka talaga dito mismo to practice, talk to your teammates, do something that I love doing, which is play basketball, just being around my teammates, yun yung pinaka-namiss ko." With the Road Warriors sitting at the bottom of the standings with a 1-7 slate and just three games left in the ongoing 2019 PBA Governor's Cup, it's highly unlikely that NLEX makes a playoff push. As early as now however, Ravena and the team are already getting ready for the third conference, the Governor's Cup.  "Again, it’s more than three months until I get to play with them kasi sa September pa, we’re preparing early for the third conference, so hopefully, ngayon pa lang, good start na sa amin." By the time the Governor's Cup rolls in, Ravena hopes to have with him a fully healthy NLEX squad. Right now, the team has been ravaged by injuries, with their other key playmaker Kevin Alas being sidelined with another ACL injury and veterans in Larry Fonacier, JR Quinahan and RJ Jazul still working their way back.  Ravena is also excited to finally share the court with new faces in Jericho Cruz and Poy Erram. Import Olu Ashaolu is also back with the Road Warriors and is expected to debut on Friday as part of their preparation for the third conference.  "With Jericho coming it, healthy si Poy, healthy is JR, with Olu, me and Kevin, si Jazul, he’s healthy, si Larry pa nandiyan, I think we’re ready to take steps back," said Ravena. "Our goal is to really win it all in the third conference, but we have to take it a day at a time." With three months to go before he makes his long-awaited NLEX return, Ravena is making sure that the team gets into a groove before the start of the Governor's Cup. Being away from the team and not being able to contribute was a difficult experience, Ravena said. Now, he's happy to be able to help the team out, even if it's just in practice for now.  "Siyempre, medyo mahirap, kasi parang medyo helpless ka, nanonood ka lang sa TV, wala kang magawa para makatulong, kahit gustong-gusto mo maka-tulong." Soon enough, 'The Phenom' will be back on the floor, and that can only mean good things for the Road Warriors.  "Pero at the end of the day, tapos na ‘yon, ilang buwan na lang aantayin ko, at least ngayon, eto, makakatulong na ako sa practice. Ito na yung quote-unquote ambag ko sa kanila to make us better for the next three games." "Again, it’s more than three months until I get to play with them kasi sa September pa, we’re preparing early for the third conference, so hopefully, ngayon pa lang, good start na sa amin," he added. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 25th, 2019

Analysis: Anthony Davis trade a win-win for both sides

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press The saga is over. When this trade is done, everybody can say they won. The Lakers, the Pelicans, Rich Paul, LeBron James, they all can take a victory lap. The trade that will be official in the coming weeks sending Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans to the Los Angeles Lakers for Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and three first-round draft picks — first reported by ESPN, later confirmed to The Associated Press by several people with knowledge of the matter — is perfect for both sides. James gets the superstar teammate he wanted. Paul, the agent James and Davis share, pulls off a power move. The Lakers instantly become major players in a suddenly open Western Conference. Davis finally gets his wish to leave New Orleans. The Pelicans don’t begin Zion Williamson’s era with a disgruntled superstar in the locker room. They load up on young players and have tons of draft chips to play around with. For the Pelicans, it’s a new beginning. For the Lakers, it’s about winning now. Draft picks, including No. 4 in this year’s class, smartly were not overvalued by the Lakers — a team with a superstar who is turning 35 in December and should be doing anything necessary to help him win a fourth championship before his window closes. The Lakers have tons of money to spend starting June 30 and the sales pitch to Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving or anyone else changes mightily after this move. Before Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) it would have been Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka saying, “We’re trying to get Anthony Davis.” Now it’ll be Pelinka saying, “We’ve got Davis, we’ve got LeBron and they want you with them.” That’ll be a tough offer for anyone to ignore. James is going to get another Big Three out of this: It was Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and him in Miami; Kevin Love, Irving and him in Cleveland; Davis, him and TBA with the Lakers. Clearly, the focus will be on a guard, which is why the rumor mill will be all about either Walker or Irving going to Los Angeles in free agency. The offseason is already in high gear. Hard to believe it really just got started. This deal got agreed to before the newly crowned NBA champion Toronto Raptors — this is true — hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy on Canadian soil for the first time. They won Thursday night at Oracle Arena to end Golden State’s reign, then stopped for a party in Las Vegas before the parade in Toronto on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). Not even 48 hours after they popped corks, the Lakers were starting their own celebration. Williamson will get drafted No. 1 overall on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time), and he’ll go to New Orleans in the awkward spot of being an 18-year-old (he doesn’t turn 19 until July 6) with a franchise on his shoulders. The Lakers will still be drafting No. 4 overall, though they’ll be doing so on New Orleans’ behalf because the trade cannot be consummated beforehand. The Pelicans need a center, and will likely look at the trade market. The Pelicans have to watch an incredible player, one of the league’s very best, leave. But David Griffin — the man tasked with rebuilding the Pelicans — clearly had concluded that there was no way of convincing Davis to not leave as a free agent next summer anyway. Had Griffin waited to make a deal in-season, there’s almost no way he could have pulled off this kind of haul in return. The longer he waited, the less the value. So they push the reset button and move on, which was the most prudent play. Let the ripple effects begin. The Warriors not only have to figure out what to do if Kevin Durant leaves, but how to contend next year without the Achilles-rehabbing Durant and the ACL-rehabbing Klay Thompson (for at least much of the season). Other contenders in the West — Houston, Denver, Portland — will be viewing the Warriors’ woes as opportunity, so they’ll be looking at ways to get better as well. And Boston will be dealing with the reality that not only are its hopes of landing Davis gone, but that Irving is likely leaving as well. There will be countless big moves in the coming weeks. The Lakers, who have missed the playoffs in the last six seasons and have been stuck in dysfunction mode for the last couple months following the resignation of Magic Johnson and soap opera that followed, got the first one of the offseason to go their way. Welcome to summer. Game on. ___ Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds@ap.org.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 16th, 2019

Even being injured, Durant leads free-agent pack

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — This was already going to be a summer filled with fireworks in the NBA. Nothing has changed. Kevin Durant’s Achilles injury, the severity of which isn’t yet confirmed, means he probably won’t be able to play much — if any — next season. But this is a testament to how much he overshadows much of the NBA landscape: Durant will still likely dictate how the free-agency dominoes fall this summer. Durant could exercise his $31.5 million player option and stay with the Warriors, and that’s likely going to be his worst-case financial scenario. He could opt out and sign a longer deal to stay in the Bay. Or he could opt out, sign elsewhere and start collecting massive checks from either the New York Knicks or Brooklyn Nets or Los Angeles Clippers or someone else. Kyrie Irving’s decision could hinge on what Durant does. Kawhi Leonard’s decision could be affected by what Durant does. How the Knicks, Nets, Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta Hawks and all the other teams who have cap space will start spending their money on June 30 ... it all will be determined, at least on some level, by what Durant does. If he stays in Golden State, that’s more money for everyone else. If he hits the open market, it’ll be about what team wants to gamble. Here’s a tip to those teams that wanted Durant before he got hurt again in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. If the opportunity presents itself, sign him. Free agency usually isn’t about just one year. It’s about the long haul. Durant is only 30-years-old. He’s not a high-flyer who plays above the rim all the time. He’s not a plodding big man. He’s not someone with a lot of gray in the goatee. He’s a world-class scorer and jump-shooter in his prime. A year from now, if the recovery from the Achilles injury indeed takes that long, he’ll be far from over the hill. “This is a devastating injury for a basketball player, but Durant can return to be the same or very close,” Dr. David Chao, a longtime NFL team physician, practicing orthopedic surgeon and now a sports medical analyst with a large following wrote Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). “This does not mark his downfall as an elite player.” In the short term, it just means Durant’s NBA Finals are over. Game 6 is Thursday night (Friday, PHL time), and the Warriors trail the Toronto Raptors 3-2 in the title series. In the long term, it might mean so much more — including the possibility that his time playing for Golden State is over. Achilles recoveries for basketball players have typically taken about a full year. Even if it turns out to be a partial tear, it’s still a tear. Some team was going to pay Durant a lot of money in 2019-20 and some team still will, probably without the immediate on-court services of perhaps the best player in the world in return. The first decision is the medical course of action. The financial course of action will be decided soon after. All will not be lost next season for the team that has Durant on its roster. That team will apply for, and get, a disabled player exception that will allow them to sign someone else for probably about $9 million and not have that count toward the team’s cap. That player won’t be of Durant’s caliber, because so few players are. But a year or so later, the team would have Durant. There’s risk with any signing. And signing any player that will command so much of a team’s salary cap while facing a grueling rehab would seem particularly risky. “He’s going to come back stronger though,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “That’s the kind of fighter he is.” The Nets swung a trade earlier this month to clear enough cap space for two max contracts this summer — and there’s no doubt that they would love Durant to take one of those spots, possibly alongside Irving. The Knicks have been mentioned as a hopeful in the Durant sweepstakes for months. The Clippers were expected to make a pitch for him as well. The Warriors surely want to keep him. The chatter about Durant’s injury indicates it’s all a mystery now, although it really shouldn’t be. Players have made comebacks off Achilles surgery, with relative levels of success. DeMarcus Cousins, Kobe Bryant, and Rudy Gay all came back; Cousins hasn’t regained past form yet. Dominique Wilkins had an Achilles tear happen to him at the peak of his career and he arguably was good as ever afterward. Elton Brand, now leading the Philadelphia 76ers’ front office, had it as a player and said he was never the same. Christian Laettner went from a star to a role player when his Achilles ripped. “I’ve been there,” 15-time golf major winner Tiger Woods said Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) at the U.S. Open. “I’ve had it to my own Achilles. I’ve had it to my own back. I know what it feels like. It’s an awful feeling. And no one can help you. That’s the hard part.” Woods fought his way back toward the top of his sport, and is the reigning Masters champion. Durant isn’t going to let an Achilles injury end his reign as one of the game’s best. Teams would be foolish to think otherwise. ___ Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds@ap.org.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 12th, 2019

Five things we learned from Game 4 of the 2019 Finals

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. – Five things we learned from the Toronto Raptors’ 105-92 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the 2019 NBA Finals on Friday at Oracle Arena: 1. Dynasties eventually become ‘die-nastys’ Will we get one more game at Oracle Arena? The scene of so much Golden State wonderfulness the past five seasons? A building about to be abandoned when the Warriors move from Oakland to a state-of-the-art arena across the Bay? Hold up. Asking one more game out of the Warriors seems a lot at the moment. These guys just suffered their second consecutive home playoff loss by 10 points or more, something that hasn’t happened to this franchise in 50 years. After three straight games scoring precisely 109 points, the Warriors came up 15 short Friday (Saturday, PHL time). They are 0-9 overall this season when held to double digits, and 0-11 in the playoffs during the Steve Kerr era, when they score 94 or fewer. And now they’re on the wrong side of a 3-1 deficit, lacking everything from certain healthy bodies to an edge, a sharpness that was missing in the second half. Granted, Golden State once held a 3-1 edge in a Finals, all the way back in 2016 … when LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers chased them down and became the only Finals team to claw out of such a chasm. The Warriors did the same to Oklahoma City in the 2016 Western Conference finals. So they not only have a blueprint, they have the know-how and an opportunity to do it again. Like Kerr before him on Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) postgame podium, Warriors forward Draymond Green spoke of simply trying to win one basketball game, the next game, as the proper way to dig out of this series hole. But then he dropped his guard and mentioned winning three in a row, something the Warriors have done often. But they’re a whole year removed from doing that in a Finals (last year’s sweep of the Cavs) with a healthy Kevin Durant. This is a more worn-down, tired team. In fact, Game 4 was more than Golden State’s 102nd game of 2018-19, regular and postseason combined. It was the 102nd playoff game of their five consecutive Finals runs, which means they have crammed an extra season-plus into their schedules compared to the underachievers on lottery teams sitting at home. From the looks of it Friday (Saturday, PHL time), these guys are ready to be toppled, like the Lakers in 1989 and again in 2004, like the Heat in 2014 and the Cavaliers last June. The boisterous Raptors fans who staged their takeover of the Warriors’ building after Game 4 were merely mirroring what their favorite team did on the court from halftime on. Golden State could not stop it. Rudy Tomjanovich might still be inclined to scream into the darkness. (“Never underestimate the heart of a champion!”) But pride only takes you so far, and that’s mostly what the Warriors have left. 2. Third quarter? That’s Toronto’s now It took the Raptors more than 18 minutes to score 30 points Friday night (Saturday, PHL time), stymied by the pace of the game and particularly Golden State’s scrappy, hustling defense. Immediately after halftime, it took Toronto only 12 minutes to put up 37. The time of death for Golden State on Friday was immediately after Kawhi Leonard drained consecutive three-pointers – “F-you” shots, teammate Fred VanVleet memorably coined them – that boosted Toronto from a four-point deficit to a 12-point advantage. The Warriors already had played well enough to rightly feel they should have had a bigger cushion; falling behind so rudely seemed to buckle the defending champs. That they feel third quarters are their birthright made the switcheroo intolerable. “We had a big problem with the third quarter in Game 2,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “We had to make some adjustment there to try to combat the way they come out of the half. We made the decision to put Fred in, [first] in Game 3 and then Game 4 again. Mostly it's to try to keep up pace of our offense going. It gives us two point guards out there that can push the ball, get it in and get it going, and it kind of paid off. “I know Kawhi's two big three's to start the half really changed the whole feel of everybody. Everybody was like, ‘Okay, man, we know we are here, let's go,’ and we just kind of kept going from those two three's.” For the Warriors, who have done that to so many others, turnabout was a pain in the rump. “Oh, this sucks,” Draymond Green recalled thinking as Toronto took control of the quarter. “It sucks really bad. You just try and do whatever you can to change it. Get a stop, get a bucket, get some momentum.  Every time we did, they answered.” Green was asked about the difficulty of rattling the stone-faced Leonard with whatever defensive tactic Golden State could muster, and brushed the question aside. “I don't think you're ever going to rattle Kawhi. Not sure we used that word one time in our scouting report, ‘We're going to rattle him,’” Green said. But it’s not just Leonard now. It’s the Raptors. Time after time, whenever Golden State revved up with a couple of scoring possessions, signaling to their fans they ready to make a run, Toronto snuffed it with a three-pointer or a well-executed pick and roll. They’ve got a team of Kawhis-in-training, unflappable lately if not as inscrutable. “Most teams will take cues from their leaders or their star players, so I think that spreads around a little bit,” Nurse said. But he also praised vets such as Marc Gasol, Danny Green, Kyle Lowry and VanVleet for how steady they’ve been. Now, with the temptation to imagine hoisting a championship trophy, the Raptors might be expected to buy into the stat that, of the 34 teams in The Finals who have led 3-1, 33 of them got their rings. But this team is so focused, so resolute in taking care of business down to the smallest and most mundane task, that all Nurse might have to do is remind them how many aspiring champs won three games in a Finals and still headed into summer empty-handed. (It's 19.) No trophy, no rings. 3. A surge from Serge The chemistry between Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry was evident in their playful banter on the podium Friday night. Each slipped into his role, Lowry as the instigator, Ibaka as the target of his playful jibes. “You joining me?” Lowry asked, as Ibaka got to the podium a half minute after him. “Serge Ibaka, everybody. You all know him. Nice outfit. Worth a lot of money. Is that jacket real leather?” “Yes, it’s real leather,” Ibaka said. "Pants too tight, he can't even sit down,” Lowry said. On court, Ibaka’s defensive impact and 20 points in reserve dampened a lot of Warrior enthusiasm. There are nights when Ibaka comes across like Chief in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” a large, lumbering and rather stiff option near the rim with very little to say. Some nights, he even seems to be asleep. But still waters often run deep, too deep for the Warriors in Game 4, it turned out. Ibaka’s here-today, gone-tomorrow shooting touch had him playing in a way that none of Golden State’s three centers – DeMarcus Cousins, Kevon Looney or Andrew Bogut – could match. “Once he gets into the series," Nurse said, "which he did in Game 3 with the blocked shots and the rebounding and stuff, he seems to stay in the series. He usually gives you all of it.” Said Lowry, about knowing when a Serge surge is coming: “He doesn't say anything. When Serge is effective defensively is when he's at his best. I think the scoring just comes. We're going to make sure he gets that pick-and-pop jump shot, he's rolling … When he brings that intensity and that fierceness, it's kind of tough to stop him on both ends of the floor.” 4. Stephen Curry had a bad game One of the most famous pieces of magazine journalism ever was entitled, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” by Gay Talese, a profile written when Sinatra obviously was ill of body and temper, and didn’t even grant Talese an interview. So our headline kind of tells the story as his did: Curry, one of the top five players in the NBA and probably the greatest overall shooter of all time, was not his two-time MVP self. He wasn’t even the Game 3 version (47 points). The Warriors point guard scored 20 fewer points in this one, and was 2-of-9 from three-point range. He missed all five of his shots from the arc in the first half and he picked up some obvious frustration fouls. Curry played 43 of the 48 minutes, and Golden State was outscored by 11 points when he was on the court. “It wasn’t his best game,” Kerr said. Evaluating Curry, for the Warriors, was going to come down to breaking down video and keeping the faith. Evaluating him, for the rest of us, is getting complicated these days by a sense that Curry did not get his due in past Finals – at least in terms of winning the Bill Russell Award as Finals MVP. But that’s no excuse to don rose-colored glasses every time he hits the floor. As scintillating as his performance was in defeat Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) as the Warriors’ only healthy threat, his Game 4 work was raggedy and unproductive. “They have been aggressive all series and trying to take space away from me and Klay,” Curry said. “I missed some shots early that I usually make, especially from the three-point line. But overall, I thought I got good looks.” Every game doesn’t need to be a referendum on the level of Curry appreciation. He might have deserved more consideration as Finals MVP in 2015, when Andre Iguodala snagged it with a strong performance in the clinching game. And even though Kevin Durant was an easy choice in 2017, there were some who felt Curry was more essential (including this voter). In some cosmic and just way, Curry probably should have been recognized with hardware somewhere among the three. But all signs are pointing to Leonard now, so Curry might have to muddle along with "only" those two Maurice Podoloff trophies for regular-season MVP, along with his All-NBA berths and assorted accolades, his ginormous contract and bounty of commercial endorsements, three rings (unless this series turns around) and a better life than most people who’ve ever walked the planet. 5. Durant to play in Game … 8? It’s possible that Durant will come walking through Rick Pitino’s proverbial door and seize what’s left of the championship series by the throat, playing like the two-time Finals MVP he is. Failing that, if there’s a Game 6, maybe that’s the night Durant at least does a Willis Reed impersonation, limping through the Oracle tunnel to a thunderous roar and hitting a couple of early shots to inspire his teammates to something special. (There still, alas, would be a pesky Game 7 for which to account, back in Toronto, likely muddying the drama.) Then again, maybe Durant doesn’t come back at all. For The Finals or with the Warriors, period. Speculation at this point is all over the map. Some think the Warriors planned to hold him out until things got really dire, to buy extra healing time and maybe not use him at all. Others now believe Durant’s rehab process of his strained right calf back-slid to some degree on Thursday, when he participated in a checkpoint workout with the training staff. A few folks think he never was going to return, regardless. After all, the All-NBA forward hasn’t played since May 8 (May 9, PHL time), missing nine fairly important games. This is a league where injuries typically face an “If this were a playoff game, would he play?” threshold. Durant has been nearly as absent from this NBA postseason as LeBron James. Look, all injuries are different, and even the same type of injury can have different timelines with different sufferers. Klay Thompson rushing back from his hamstring issue after skipping only Game 3 is at the crazy-resilient end of the durability scale. Kevon Looney basically rose from the ashes, giving the Warriors a rim runner and 10 points with six rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench. He had been ruled out for the rest of the series after suffering a rib cartilage fracture in his crash to the floor in Game 2. After anticipation of Durant’s availability got out in front of his reality for a few days, the chatter is more tempered now. There’s a shrug and a whiff of uncertainty folded into every mention. If Durant had his Thursday workout, he would have played Friday (Saturday, PHL time). If he had a setback … Heck, at this point it might be more pragmatic for the medical peeps to declare him out and let the Warriors who’ve come this far see this through, yea or nay. “As far as KD, there's been hope that he will come back the whole series,” Draymond Green said. “So that's not going to change now. Obviously we hope to have him, but we'll see what happens. We don't make that final call, he don't really even make that final call.  His body will tell him if he can get out there or not. And if he can, great. And if not, you still got to try to find a way to win the next game.” The Warriors had been holding out hope for Durant’s return as if he was their ace in the hole, imagining him with zero rust or rhythm issues once back and no limitations on his gait. But he has passed the “In case of emergency, break glass” point of urgent help possibilities. Now Durant resembles more the keg hanging from a Saint Bernard dog’s collar. It’s a nice idea, but when was the last time one of those dogs saved somebody who literally drank from the little barrel? Toronto is in a foreign land, by NBA standards. But it ain’t the Alps. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 9th, 2019

Championship in sight, Raptors control Oracle Arena endgame

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. — What once began as a fantasy, then progressed as hope and then grew to a reasonable wish has now evolved and crystalized once again. And this time, everyone south of Saskatoon can begin to see it and maybe even buy in. The Toronto Raptors have the scent of a champion. This may come as a surprise to the nostrils of anyone who saw them crumble in past postseasons or figured their chances of getting out of the East this season were dicey … but Toronto just took a pair of NBA Finals games at Oracle Arena — and maybe closed it down in the process. The Raptors are headed home with one game to win and history on their side. Thirty-four times in The Finals have teams taken 3-1 leads, and they sipped champagne all but once. (Let’s not discuss that lone team to lose; the Warriors are suffering enough.) This latest Raptors victory was impressively convincing, especially considering the circumstances. They stared at a desperate home team, one that welcomed back Klay Thompson after a one-game injury absence … a two-time defending champion known for rising to the occasion … and the Raptors dusted them anyway. You understand exactly what the Raptors did Friday (Saturday, PHL time) and how it was done? They emerged from the halftime locker room with fire and outclassed a team known for championship pedigree and owning third quarters in the postseason. Kawhi Leonard, who’s uplifting a team and a country, began the onslaught with a pair of three-point jumpers. The Toronto defense, relentless most of the night and throughout the series as well, squeezed the Warriors and especially Steph Curry. Time after time, Serge Ibaka delivered a counter punch with a key jumper off the pick and roll or a defensive stop. Ibaka had 20 points in 21 minutes in what was his first strong outing from jump to buzzer. Fred VanVleet, felled by a stray Shaun Livingston elbow to the chops in the third quarter, was left bloodied and missing a tooth in a scene that embodied Toronto's grit. The Raptors simply wore down the more experienced Warriors and Golden State never came up with an answer. Toronto stole the atmosphere — a smattering of red-garbed Raptors fans suddenly cheered louder and stomped harder and stayed buzzed long after the buzzer — and sent the Warriors off the court with heads bowed and egos deflated. Oh, something else: Nick Nurse, the first-year Toronto coach, kept pressing the right buttons with his various defensive schemes and substitutions as Golden State failed to break 100 for the first time this postseason. And the Raptors seized control of the series, ensuring that Scotiabank Arena will be a mixture of tense and hysterical Monday for Game 5 (Tuesday, PHL time). And that’s just from Drake. The crowd will be hyped, too. This is the moment that the basketball population in Toronto has long awaited, to get a sense something special is about to happen, or at least could. And this was made possible by a former Finals MVP who, this time last summer, was in exile with his reputation, at least in San Antonio, in tatters. By November, in Toronto, none of that mattered. “Once we saw him early in the year, your team’s vision of who they can become changes,” said Nurse. Leonard is a victory away from another Finals MVP and trophy, and mostly a sense of redemption. His passion and championship drive was evident Friday in two stages, both influential to his team. He set an example early by showing pep from the opening tip, carrying the Raptors with 14 of their 17 points over the first 12 minutes. And then, coming out of halftime, Leonard went scorched Earth once again. He posted 17 points and five rebounds in the third, and this time the Raptors lent support. Toronto outscored the Warriors, 37-21, and spent the rest of the game keeping a sneaker pressed on the Warriors’ throat. Kawhi tore through the Warriors constantly, totaling 36 points and 12 rebounds. Yet it was his tone that influenced the game just as much, if not more. “He imposed his will on the game and his team followed him,” said Draymond Green. “He gets the job done.” This is why Kawhi’s value to the Raptors is priceless. Until now, Toronto lacked a player with his presence, someone who forced other teams to gameplan differently, someone who seems to thrive when the stakes are highest and is driven in these situations. They didn’t have that with DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry, the leaders and best players of those teams that flourished in the regular season and failed in the postseason. Leonard clearly has the Warriors rattled and their defense stressed whenever he’s in isolation or bracing to attack. “He hit every big shot, every big momentum shot,” said Curry. Just the same, the Kawhi-inspired defense weighed heavily not only in this game but for much of the series. With the exception of Curry’s monstrous 47-point outburst in Game 3, Toronto hasn’t yielded much from the Warriors — surely, Kevin Durant’s absence and Thompson’s missed game contributed. Yet the Raptors are floating Leonard around the floor, sneaking in doubles on Thompson and Curry, leaving Green open and encouraging him to shoot, and essentially making it tough for the Warriors to go on a big scoring spree. Toronto has outscored the Warriors in 13 of the 16 quarters of this series. Hounded by the Raptors’ perimeter defense, and maybe gassed from two nights earlier, Curry made only a pair of three-pointers Friday (Saturday, PHL time) and never developed a rhythm. And while Thompson returned from his injury with 28 points, he was harmless in the fourth quarter and his team quiet. “They’ve been aggressive all series in trying to take space away from me and Klay,” Curry said. As the Warriors and the crowd disappeared from the arena, there was a sense of finality in the air inside Oracle. If the Warriors don’t win Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), then the last memory of their home of nearly six decades will be a deflating one. Instead of dreamy visions of Curry and Thompson and Durant spraying jumpers, it will be Leonard punishing the Warriors and the home team powerless to stop him or from being pushed to the brink. And speaking of Durant: Coach Steve Kerr has now gone radio silent about his superstar’s availability for Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) or beyond. The subject has become tiresome because there’s no resolution regarding someone who hasn’t played in a month. And so the Warriors have twin motivations for Monday (Tuesday, PHL time): Win to stay alive and also to play once more at Oracle for a Game 6. Yet at this point, with the dynasty showing cracks, that might be a lost cause. “I know we’re capable,” said Kerr. “We’ve got a lot of talent and got a lot of pride and these guys have been to The Finals five straight years for a reason. They’re going to fight the whole way.” Green added: “I’ve been on the wrong side of 3-1 before, so why not make our own history?” Well, that now-or-never talk is fine. Yet it’s all about the Raptors making history now, and stopping the Warriors’ streak in the process. It’s all there for the taking for Toronto: One win, a chance to celebrate on the home floor, and a marvelous and striking professional rebound for Kawhi Leonard, who surely will be named Finals MVP should all of the above happen. Dare we say, it’s the Raptors title to lose now. A title anointed to the Warriors even before the season began. Well, plenty has happened in the last seven months. And especially the last seven days. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 8th, 2019

Raptors rip a page from Warriors playbook to go up 3-1

In a sloppy, miss-filled first half, the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors combined to shoot 4-of-30 from long-range, with each team accounting for two triples. Given how prolific both sides' offenses can be, everyone was sure that the cold spell was not going to last. Come the third quarter, it seemed a given that one team would be able to find their range and go on a big run. Many thought it would be the home team Warriors. Instead, it was the visiting Raptors. After hitting a mere 34.1% from the field in the first half, Toronto opened the third with back-to-back Kawhi Leonard triples, which set the tone for a 37-21 quarter, and a 79-67 lead. Toronto wound up shooting 52.2% in that quarter, converting 5-of-7 three-pointers, and burying the Warriors under a flurry that should be familiar to the defending champions. After all, "how did he hit that?" three-pointers and suffocating defense (GSW was just 7-of-20 from the field, 3-of-9 on three's) used to be their third quarter modus operandi, and in the face of what they used to terrorize the league with, Golden State had no answer. "We played pretty well for 26 minutes," said Stephen Curry in the postgame. "And then they took control of the game. It's one of those nights where you play [with] a lot of energy and you start to build momentum and then the wheels fall off a little bit." Based on the injury report prior to this game, things seemed to be headed for a Warriors win and a 2-2 series tie. Klay Thompson was back in the starting five, while the team got a boost from the unexpected return of Kevon Looney, who was initially ruled out of the remainder of the Finals. Thompson led the Warriors in first-half points with 14, and Looney was not far back with eight on 4-of-5 shooting, while playing stingy defense. But there were warning signs that unless the Warriors could come out strong in the third, there would be trouble brewing from Toronto. Curry also had eight points but was a miserable 0-of-5 on three's. Another starter, DeMarcus Cousins, accounted for three of his side's nine turnovers, in addition to two fouls. And most importantly, Golden State, for all that early momentum, was up by just four at the break. "I thought they just took it to us right from the beginning of the [third] quarter," admitted Warriors coach Steve Kerr. "Kawhi hit two three's immediately and they turned up their defense, and they just got on a run. And we just sort of lost that defensive tenacity that we had in the first half." Back in Game 2, the Warriors opened the third with an 18-0 run, as the Raptors just missed shot after shot, including ones that seemingly refused to drop into the hoop. This third period run wasn't as explicit, but the visiting side had a 13-5 edge in fast break points, and committed just half the amount of Golden State's six turnovers, converting those errors into nine easy markers. "I know Kawhi's two big three's to start the half...I thought changed the whole feel of everybody," said Raptors coach Nick Nurse. "I just thought everybody was like, okay, man, we know we are here, let's go, and we just kind of kept going from those two three's." Toronto's poise simply has to be commended. Despite this being the first time the franchise has gotten this far in the NBA Playoffs, the team has co-opted the robotic, can't-get-him-to-flinch persona of their main gun, Kawhi Leonard. Going back to Finals Game 2, which already seems like months ago, despite Golden State's big run to start the third, the Raptors were still in the game, right up until Andre Iguodala's massive triple, which turned out to be the dagger. And so with the deficit being a mere four points at the half, they were calm, and more importantly confident, that they'd be able to get back on top, which is exactly what they did. With Thompson and Looney back in the lineup, Golden State really only has one more trump card: a returning Kevin Durant. But as talented as the Slim Reaper is, it's hard to believe that he, coming off a month of no hoops, can single-handedly turn things around. "We got to win one game," Draymond Green pointed out. "We win one, then we'll build on that. I've been on the wrong side of 3-1 before, so why not make our own history." The champs have their bravado, and it's well-earned, but in the face of an unblinking opponent that seems to be out-Warriors-ing the Warriors, it may just be a matter of "how much longer." "We were confident," says Kawhi Leonard of that explosive third quarter. "We wanted to come in and have a good third quarter coming out of the first five minutes, stay aggressive on both ends of the floor, keep our energy up. "And that's all we did." The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or ABS-CBN Sports......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 8th, 2019

Raptors regain Finals lead, survive Curry flurry in Game 3

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Kyle Lowry kept finding answers for every big shot by Stephen Curry and the beat-up Warriors, and the Toronto Raptors grabbed a pivotal road win in the NBA Finals by beating Golden State 123-109 on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) for a 2-1 series lead. Curry scored a playoff career-best 47 points to go with eight rebounds and seven assists, but couldn't do it all for the two-time defending champions, down starters Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson and key backup big man Kevon Looney because of injuries. Leonard scored 30 points, Lowry contributed 23 with five three-pointers and Green had 18 points with six triples after Pascal Siakam got the Raptors rolling early as Toronto shot 52.4% and made 17 from deep. Splash Brother Thompson missed his first career playoff game after straining his left hamstring late in Game 2, while Looney is out the rest of the series after a cartilage fracture on his right side near the collarbone that also happened Sunday (Monday, PHL time). Durant, a two-time reigning NBA Finals MVP, is still out because of a strained right calf. Golden State hopes to get healthier by Game 4 on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) back at Oracle Arena. The Warriors trailed 96-83 going into the final quarter then Curry's three free throws at 10:37 made it a seven-point game before back-to-back baskets by Serge Ibaka. Siakam scored 18 points and established the momentum for Toronto from the tip, hitting his first three shots and setting a tone for a defensive effort that stayed solid without the foul problems that plagued the Raptors in Game 2. Golden State greatly missed not only Thompson's touch from outside but also his stifling defense. Raptors coach Nick Nurse challenged his team to produce more defensive stops in order to get out in transition — "make them miss more," he said. Ibaka produced six blocked shots in the effort. "We're at a point in the series we've got to get out and guard these dudes," Nurse said. Curry shot 14-for-31 including 6-of-14 on three's while making 13-of-14 free throws in his sixth career 40-point playoff performance. Nurse pulled out a box-and-one to try to stymie Curry in Golden State's 109-104 Game 2 win, then the Raptors made Curry's short-handed supporting cast try to beat them this time — and it sure worked. TIP-INS Raptors: All five Toronto starters scored in double digits and Fred VanVleet added 11 off the bench. ... The Raptors began 10-for-14 and scored 12 early points in the paint. .. Former Warriors G Patrick McCaw, who departed after last season in contract dispute, drew boos from the crowd when he checked into the game late in the first. Warriors: Curry's 17 first-quarter points matched his most in the period for the postseason. He also did so on April 27, 2014, against the Clippers. ... In the first half, Curry was 4-of-8 from three-point range, the rest of the Warriors just 1-for-11. ... Draymond Green's streak of double-doubles ended at a career-best six games. A 12th overall this postseason would match Denver's Nikola Jokic for most in the 2019 playoffs. ... Tim Hardaway from the Warriors' "Run TMC" era attended the game. WARRIORS INJURIES Durant went through extensive workouts both Tuesday and Wednesday (Wednesday and Thursday, PHL time) at the practice facility with the hope he would do some scrimmaging Thursday (Friday, PHL time). While the Warriors weren't scheduled for a regular practice Thursday (Friday, PHL time), coach Steve Kerr said some of the coaches and younger players might be called upon to give Durant the full-speed court work he still needs before being medically cleared to return. He missed his eighth straight game since the injury May 8 (May 9, PHL time) in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Rockets. Thompson was hurt in Game 2 on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) and was to be evaluated by the training staff before tipoff. He didn't end up warming up on the court. Thompson did some running and shooting earlier in the day but Kerr said the Warriors weren't going to play him "if there's risk" of further damage at this stage of the series. Thompson is averaging 19.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists this postseason, including 23.0 points through the first two finals games. He will have another full day to recover before Game 4. ORACLE OVERDUE The home fans waited 20 days between home playoff games with the long layoff after the Western Conference finals sweep of Portland then Golden State opening the finals in Toronto. It had been since Game 2 against the Trail Blazers on May 16 (May 17, PHL time) that the Warriors hosted — the second-longest lapse between home games since the current 16-game, four-round format was established in 1983. The Warriors hosted a Game 3 in the finals for the first time since winning the 1975 title, having begun at home in each of the previous four......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 6th, 2019

Curry, Warriors lose game of numbers versus Raptors

Stephen Curry had one of those nights that Warriors fans all secretly hope to see. Golden State normally loves to share the ball, spread the wealth, make sure the opponents are bewildered by the buffet of offensive options on the defending champions' side. In Game 3 of the 2019 NBA Finals though, they didn't have a lot of choices to get points from. In fact, they only had one player who could put the ball into the bucket reliably: the former two-time MVP. It was, as many hoped it would be, spectacular to watch. Curry notched a postseason-best 47 points on 14-of-31 shooting, converting 6-of-14 three-pointers and 13-of-14 free throws. He drove hard into the lane. He broke down defenders with his dribbles. He flung insane shots from far away. The only unanimous pick for Most Valuable Player logged 43 minutes, and made sure the Raptors did not have a comfortable game. "Steph was incredible," Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said after the game. "The stuff he does, he does things that honestly I don't think anybody has ever done before. The way he plays the game, the way he shoots it and the combination of his ball handling and shooting skills, it's incredible to watch. He was amazing." It just wasn't enough. On a night when Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson both failed to hit the court, only Curry stepped up to the plate. Draymond Green belatedly canned a few triples, but had as many assists (four) as turnovers. DeMarcus Cousins looked like the complete opposite of his Game 2 self, making just 1-of-7 shots and failing to provide any semblance of playmaking. Quinn Cook had nine points, but didn't hit any three's. But there was Curry, perpetually keeping the Warriors within spitting distance of the Toronto Raptors. Only it wasn't enough. Curry's brilliance was met and exceeded by not one, not two, but all three members of Canada's backcourt: Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, and Fred VanVleet. Where Curry had 47 points and six three's, the trio combined for 52 points and 14 triples. Whenever the Warriors seemingly had a comeback lined up, one of them would hit a big three-pointer, or come up with a huge defensive play, or find a Raptors big man for the assist. "I think Danny's [Green's] buckets boosted our whole team's confidence," said Raptors coach Nick Nurse. Green had been a putrid 6-of-32 from downtown in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, but has been heating up, going 7-of-16 over Games 1 and 2. "I think that when he banked a couple there and then he kind of kept it going, I think it was just a huge confidence boost all around." It was a game the Raptors knew they had to win. The Warriors had stolen Game 2 and home court advantage in Toronto, despite Thompson and Kevon Looney exiting mid-way through that one. And with Durant's presence looming over the series like the Falcon ready to tell Curry's Captain America "on your left," the challengers to the NBA throne knew they could ill afford a 2-1 series deficit. "For me it was just coming off being aggressive and not being so passive and trying to get everybody else involved," said Kyle Lowry. The team had been told to "let it rip" by Nurse and the rest of their coaching staff, and answered in kind. They were 17-of-38 on three's in this one (44.7%) compared to 11-of-38 (28.9%) in Game 2. Stretching it back further, the Raptors were 13-of-33 (39.4%) in Game 1, which they had won. The Warriors have scored 109 points in all three games so far; to come out on top, it seems, the Raptors simply have to better that number. "We just kept scoring," Fred VanVleet added. "We knew that they were going to make a run. [We] just tried to keep continuing to put pressure on them and just work the game." "Every time we made a run or got the crowd into it, they either made a tough three or there was tough foul called," Curry pointed out. "They slowed the tempo down, or something went their way. "So it's just how it goes sometimes. You have to tip your cap to all the guys that made pivotal plays in the right times." It would have been one thing if it were just that trio of Raptor guards, but it wasn't. Kawhi Leonard, appropriately enough, had the quietest 30-7-6 outing you'll probably ever see. Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol added 18 and 17, respectively, while Serge Ibaka provided a late jolt with six points and six blocks. And again, the only real Warrior of note was Curry. The question of these Finals for the Warriors has always been whether or not they'd be able to ride out the Kevin Durant injury. On one hand, they could be down 1-3, have Durant come back and go on to win the whole thing. On the other, that's hardly realistic, and the Raptors aren't going to just fold if the Slim Reaper shows up opposite them. "We didn't play well enough and we ran into a team that played an excellent game," admitted Kerr. "So, a long series. We got to bounce back and move on from here." "I mean, we fought, but we lost," added Curry. "So we got to go back to the drawing board and jus recalibrate for Game 4. It's kind of been like a roller coaster type of series these first games, and I like the things that we saw tonight that we can make adjustments on and protect home court on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). "It's the Finals man, an oppotunity for us to get back in the series on Friday (Saturday, PHL time) and take it from there." The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or ABS-CBN Sports......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 6th, 2019

The Finals Stat, Game 2: Matchup adjustment stifles Toronto

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com TORONTO -- They ain't all gonna be pretty. The Golden State Warriors survived two new injuries and a 5 1/2-minute stretch of scoreless basketball to escape with a 109-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors in Game 2 of The Finals, punctuated by Andre Iguodala's dagger three-pointer with 5.9 seconds left. The Warriors' backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 48 points and Draymond Green came one assist shy of recording his fourth straight triple-double. The Warriors assisted on 34 of their 38 field goals and evened the series at one game apiece. One stat stood out from the rest as the Warriors grabbed home-court advantage as we head to Oakland for Games 3 and 4, with the champs now dealing with injuries to Kevin Durant (strained right calf), Thompson (left hamstring tightness) and Kevon Looney (left chest contusion). The stat 12 -- Scoreless possessions for the Raptors to start the third quarter. The context The Warriors trailed by as many as 12 points in the second quarter, and it was an 11-point Toronto lead late in the half. But Golden State closed the period on a 9-3 run to make it a five-point game at the break. What followed was one of those game-changing third quarters that has become a hallmark of these Warriors. This wasn't about their explosive offense, but rather a stifling defense that shut down Toronto for the first 5:38 of the second half. It started with a matchup adjustment. Iguodala had been the primary defender on Kawhi Leonard through the first three halves of this series. But to open the third quarter on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), it was Thompson defending Leonard, Iguodala checking Pascal Siakam, and Green on Kyle Lowry. It's hard to argue with the results. On the Raptors' first possession of the third, they weren't able to get the ball to Leonard until there were just five seconds left on the shot clock, and he missed a contested three from the right wing. On the next possession, Green helped off his man to deflect a Danny Green pass, one of five Toronto turnovers on their first nine possessions of the period. On Toronto's third time with the ball in the third, DeMarcus Cousins cut off a Leonard pick-and-roll drive and Thompson came back to contest a stepback jumper. After the Raptors outscored the Warriors 28-12 in the paint in the first half, five of Toronto's first six shots of the third came from outside the paint. They missed some open jumpers, but the Warriors made it a point to give the Raptors nothing easy on the inside. Both Iguodala and Cousins blocked Siakam in the post, and Thompson stripped Leonard on his way to the bucket. In total, over those first 12 possessions of the third quarter, the Raptors shot 0-for-8 (with none of the eight shots coming in the restricted area) and committed five turnovers. By the time Fred VanVleet ended the drought on a corner three with 6:22 on the clock, the Warriors had turned a five-point deficit into a 13-point lead. Going back to the end of the second quarter, it was a 27-3 run. The Raptors made things interesting with a late 10-0 run -- the Warriors' scoreless drought in the fourth was just a little shorter (5:33) than that of the Raptors in the third (5:38) -- but never had a shot to tie or take the lead after the game turned early in the second half. Like they did last year, the Warriors ranked 11th defensively in the regular season. But they also had the No. 1 defense in the playoffs, allowing just 101.8 points per 100 possessions as they won their second straight championship. After Game 1 on Thursday (Friday, PHL time), the Warriors ranked 10th defensively in this postseason, having allowed 110.8 points per 100 possessions. They suffered some slippage and just weren't the same defensive team as they had been during their championship runs. Maybe it was a sign that this is the year that their dynasty comes to an end. Or maybe they just needed some adversity before they flipped the switch. And maybe the idea of a 2-0 deficit in The Finals was just enough to do it. The first 5 1/2 minutes of the third quarter on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) were game-changing, and perhaps series-changing. It started with a matchup adjustment (preliminary matchup data from Second Spectrum has the Raptors scoring just 15 points on the 25 possessions that Thompson defended Leonard) and it continued with a little more effort. In these playoffs, the Warriors are now 5-4 after trailing by double-digits and 13-0 when they've allowed fewer than 115.5 points per 100 possessions. When they've defended to some degree of success, they've won. 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 3rd, 2019

'Strength in numbers' as Warriors tie series against Raptors

By Brian Mahoney, Associated Press TORONTO (AP) — Klay Thompson scored 25 points before leaving with a hamstring injury, Stephen Curry had 23 and the Golden State Warriors ran off the first 18 points of the second half on their way to a 109-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time) that tied the NBA Finals at one game apiece. With Kevin Durant already out and Thompson eventually joining him in the fourth quarter, the Warriors relied on a champion's heart to overcome their weary bodies. Andre Iguodala, himself slow to get up after a hard fall in the first half, made the clinching three-pointer with 5.9 seconds left after the Raptors scored 10 straight points to cut it to 106-104. Andre Iguodala extends the lead and the @warriors hold on to even the series 1-1! #NBAFinals Final in Game 2:#StrengthInNumbers 109#WeTheNorth 104 pic.twitter.com/BwjMtWkk5L — NBA (@NBA) June 3, 2019 Kawhi Leonard had 34 points and 14 rebounds for the Raptors. They had won five straight since falling behind 2-0 in the Eastern Conference finals. Curry appeared to be laboring as well in the first half, returning to the locker room in the midst of six straight misses to start the game. But the Warriors cobbled together a good enough finish to the second quarter to keep it close, then stormed out of the locker room with one of their vintage third-quarter charges that have been so frequent during their run to five straight NBA Finals. DeMarcus Cousins was inserted into the starting lineup and delivered 11 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, and Draymond Green had 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists — missing by one assist a fourth straight triple-double. The series now moves to their Oracle Arena for Games 3 and 4, with the first NBA Finals to be played outside the U.S. assured of returning to Canada for Game 5. The Warriors will hope to have enough healthy bodies to get through it. Thompson landed awkwardly after a three-point attempt early in the fourth quarter and limped off soon after, with backup center Kevon Looney already missing the second half with a chest injury. And Golden State is still without Durant, who missed his seventh straight game with a strained right calf but hopes to return during the series. Fred VanVleet scored 17 points for the Raptors, who had red T-shirts with their slogan "We The North" hanging on seats around the arena. The Warriors sure were seeing red, especially Curry, during a mostly miserable first half when they missed 20 of their first 28 shots. He hung his head and didn't even attempt to run back when VanVleet stole the ball from him and made a layup to give Toronto an 11-point lead with a little more than two minutes remaining in the half. But Curry made two free throws for the final points of the half to cut it to 59-54, then the Warriors came back and pitched a shutout until nearly the midpoint of the third quarter during a series-changing — perhaps season-changing — swing. Iguodala, had five quick points including a three-pointer that moved Golden State into the lead at 61-59. The surge continued with three straight baskets from Thompson and three more from Green, whose last one capped it and made it 72-59 before Toronto finally got on the board with a three-pointer with VanVleet with 6:20 remaining in the period......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 3rd, 2019