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Q& A: Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com A year ago, on the night of the 2017 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls switched gears. Jimmy Butler was traded to Minnesota, taking with him any pretense that the Bulls were a legitimate playoff team. In that moment, Chicago committed to a rebuild, which is to say, a dive into the draft lottery where coach Fred Hoiberg and his team presumably would be rewarded not for how many games they won but how many they lost. By whatever means necessary. Soon after Butler was moved to the Timberwolves, veteran point guard Rajon Rondo was waived. A few months later, Dwyane Wade was cut loose (via a handsome buyout) to bounce through Cleveland to Miami. The Bulls moved forward with three young pieces courtesy of the Wolves -- wing Zach LaVine, guard Kris Dunn and the No. 7 pick in 2017, rookie forward Lauri Markkanen -- and a general acceptance that getting from there to here was going to bring a lot of pain. Some of that was literal: Bobby Portis slugged teammate Nikola Mirotic in a preseason practice, breaking two facial bones and putting Mirotic on the shelf for 23 games. Some of it was figurative: the frustration of a season that began as a 3-20 mess and ended in a 10-28 slog. In between, though, the Bulls somehow put together a 14-7 stretch that offered a glimpse of what 2018-19 might be. It also cost them precious lottery balls, eventually leaving them with the No. 7 pick (and No. 22, after dealing Mirotic in February to New Orleans) in Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) Draft. Hoiberg, who went from an alleged coaching “hot seat” during two .500 seasons, wound up with more job security as a coach headed toward 50 defeats and beyond. He spoke with NBA.com about his and the Bulls’, er, challenging season. This is edited from a pair of longer conversations, one at the end of the regular season, the other within the past week. NBA.com: So you go through everything that was 2017-18, dutifully lose 55 games and wind up at No. 7 instead of in the top three for the Draft. The inevitable question is, was it worth it? Fred Hoiberg: Obviously you’re disappointed. You were hoping to move up. But we’re confident we’re going to get a good player with the No. 7 pick and we’re confident we’ll get a good player with the 22nd pick. NBA.com: C’mon, this isn’t our first rodeo. I get that people don’t like to use the word “tanking,” but the Bulls’ marching orders last season were pretty clear. FH: I don’t think you can look at it that way in the midst of your season. The players are competitive, your staff is competitive. You want to play as well as you can and put yourself in a position to win. When you look at the successful stretch that we had in December and January, you think about carrying those things forward and then adding, based on who we get, to the roster. There was some real frustration that we didn’t get a lot of wins at the end. But we developed some younger players and saw what we had with some of our guys. NBA.com: When you guys had that run before the season’s midpoint, winning seven in a row (first team in NBA history with such a long winning streak immediately after a losing streak of 10 in a row) and 10 of 12, did you and the front office ever consider a Plan B? As in, maybe, show potential free agents how good your supporting cast could be, in hopes of luring big-name help this summer? FH: I think we did. What we showed was a really good foundation and a young core that we can build around. When I look back at it, I just wish we could have had more opportunity to work with it and see what it would have looked like. When Zach LaVine came back [Jan. 13 from ACL knee surgery], the plan was for him to play about 20 minutes a night. Then his third game, Kris Dunn fell against Golden State and had that concussion [that cost him 11 games, before missing the final 14 with a toe injury]. It’s too bad we didn’t get the full look. But players like Cam Payne, Denzel [Valentine], Bobby, Robin [Lopez], Justin Holiday all had career years.   NBA.com: You had a lot of injuries down the stretch. Not to suggest that they weren’t all legit, but were you instructed at any point by VP John Paxson or GM Gar Forman to dial it back after that 14-7 success? FH: No, we weren’t. And the big thing from the very beginning of last season, the two things we wanted to see, was competing at a high level every night and the development of our players. I think we accomplished that. NBA.com: What -- in your background as a player, coach, competitor, you name it -- prepared you for this past season? FH: Part of what prepared me for this was, I had been through this as a player. I went from four really competitive teams in Indiana, playing with someone as driven and helpful as Reggie Miller, taking me under his wing. There were other great veteran players who helped me just to survive and taught me a lot. Larry Brown was the coach, then Larry Bird my last two years.   Then when I came to Chicago, I knew it would be an opportunity to play. But it was a rebuild. Eventually I got thrust into the role of captain, as the oldest player on team at 28. It really helped me with what we’re going through now. I learned how important it is to keep guys’ morale up and be positive through the ups and downs. I give our guys all the credit in the world for remaining so positive, keeping up a great work ethic and still being sponges in wanting to learn. NBA.com: What were the takeaways from the best and healthiest part of last season? FH: We got a pretty good feel for what Kris Dunn can be. He really evolved into being a closer for our team. Lauri was closing games for us, taking big shots as a 20-year-old kid. Zach had the game against Minnesota. What people fail to remember about Zach, he averaged over 22 points a game in February and really got into a pretty good rhythm. Then he had some knee soreness and wound up sitting for the rest of the year. But we had some flashes of what this can turn into. NBA.com: Niko paid for his role in sparking that hot streak. FH: Niko was great. He missed those first 23, and I thought our team handled that adverse situation about as well as anybody could, not letting it affect us in a negative way. We were able to move past it. You even saw the chemistry that Niko and Bobby played with when they were out there together. NBA.com: How hard was it personally downshifting from a team that had gone to the playoffs to one that didn’t put a priority on winning? FH: When the move was made on draft night, when those three kids came in, right away there was an excitement. Everyone had seen what Zach had done. He was a highlight reel and had those slam dunk championships. He plays the game with ease on the offensive end. His athletic tools and ability to get up and down the floor. Kris, everybody absolutely loved coming out of the draft [in 2016]. Then he had an up-and-down rookie season. Helping him to get that swagger back that he had coming out of Providence took some work, but he was aching to put that work in. Markkanen, I know the guys upstairs knew how good he was but I had no idea. I didn’t study him because we had the 15th pick. He comes over after a grueling summer -- summer league, Eurobasket with all that pressure in front of his home fans -- and he was exhausted. But then you saw every day, “Man, this kid is really good.” You’re thinking, we could probably put the ball in this kid’s hands. Then he goes up and dunks over a whole team and you say, “My God, this kid’s more athletic than we thought. He uses his feet, he’s got anticipation, he’s got toughness.” He showed a little more every day. NBA.com: Was it difficult asking a proud veteran like Robin Lopez to put it in idle over the final 25 games? FH: I think he understood. He’s been a part of a lot of different situations. He was great. He continued to lead. He continued to practice hard. He talked to the bigs as they came off the floor. NBA.com: Was your own health challenged at all by the stress of this season? Your past issues related to your heart are widely known, and coaching an NBA team even in the best of times is a demanding job. FH: After two open-heart surgeries, I do have to sometimes check myself. There are so many things you can over-concern yourself with in this business. Then you look back a week or two later and say, “My God, why did I put so much effort into that one stupid thing that happened?” You have to let go sometimes. My family is so important for me with that. You get some normalcy in your life. [At night, lying in bed, Hoiberg can hear a valve in his heart every time it beats. He let a visitor listen, too, and sure enough... ] If this ever affected me to the point where I had to throttle back, I would move on to something else. When I had my first surgery and they removed the diseased tissue from the aorta that had an aneurysm in it, they got rid of the problem. The valve deteriorated after they put a new valve in and they had to go in again, but the diseased tissue no longer was there. If it was a risk, I’d be doing something else. But it’s a constant reminder. You think you’re going to get used to it, but you never really do. My wife will be lying next to me and she hears it. NBA.com: When you look back on 2017-18, is it like “Casablanca” for you guys? As in, you’ll always have December? FH: It was fun to see how much the work paid off. Everyone was putting so much into it to get out of that slump. You can say, we had something to build on there. But whenever I talked to our team, before or after, it was all about competing on a nightly basis. Being consistent with their effort. I couldn’t be more proud of how they handled it. They were on time. They kept trying to get better. They worried about what they could control. I didn’t have to have even one of those conversations where I sat a guy down and said, “You’re not playing hard enough.” I did have a few conversations where I said, “You need to move the ball more.” [laughs] NBA.com: Big difference, coaching relative kids after the so-called “three alphas” of Butler, Wade and Rondo? Jimmy seemed eager to stay here to win. FH: Jimmy did so many things for this team. He was great to coach. You knew every night you were going to get an unbelievable effort. A guy who never backed down. Who never shied away from the big shot. And was going to defend at a high level every time he stepped on the floor. So Jimmy was missed in a lot of ways. But when you look at the young guys’ abilities, it’s exciting. NBA.com: What do you make of having better job security now that the losses are mounting, compared to those .500 seasons? FH: I don’t think any one of the 30 guys in our position pay attention to that. You can’t do your job if you do. You go in and try to improve as an individual, as a staff, as a team. Our first year, Derrick Rose suffered an orbital fracture in the first workout. We had 10 rotation players who missed double-digit games. Two starters missed 50 or more [Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah]. Niko had that botched appendix surgery. The next year was a completely different team. Nobody predicted we’d be a playoff team but we were and had a good chance to beat Boston before Rondo got hurt. NBA.com: When you’re not coaching veterans, is it a purer form, as far as installing “your” system vs. tailoring things to them? FH: You always look for the best system, the best approach. The basics don’t change, but [in 2016-17] we had a lot more isolation players, so we ran more of those types of actions. This [past] year, more ball movement, player movement fit this group better. We had longer, harder practices as opposed to a veteran group as the year went on. NBA.com: Since the end of the season, how much time have you put in on developmental activities and draft preparation? FH: We’ve had a lot of guys in and gotten a lot of work in, in the early part of the offseason. We’re looking forward to working again after the draft with some new young players as part of the roster. It’s all about moving forward. NBA.com: As you look back over the past year, with the script flipping to the point where the Bulls wanted to win by losing and maybe lost -- some draft position, anyway -- by winning, what goes through your mind? FH: What was Donovan Mitchell [the Rookie of the Year finalist chosen by Utah]? The 13th pick? You just never know with the draft. You play hard, you get the culture established the way you want it and things take care of themselves. What really would have been devastating would have been ending the season with negativity, with your team not playing hard, with your team disinterested. That’s something that would be a real cause for concern going into an offseason. But our guys felt good about themselves. Some were sacrificing in a big way and pulling for younger guys. They were playing hard, they were cheering for each other. 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 19th, 2018

Long-awaited matchup arrives for Rockets, Warriors

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com James Harden and the Rockets must get past the Warriors to reach their first Finals since 1995. Finally, it’s here. The series the NBA world has been waiting for from the moment Chris Paul requested a trade last summer that sent him to the Houston Rockets to join forces with James Harden has arrived. It's the Rockets vs. the four-time Western Conference and two-time NBA champion Golden State Warriors for West supremacy. The Rockets had a feeling they could see this journey through to this point, even when the teams met on opening night at Oracle Arena. Houston was built to beat the champs, and did it twice in their three regular season encounters. Rockets center Clint Capela voiced his opinions on the matchup after a January win, saying his team was superior to the champs. And he’s just as eager for this match up, in which the Rockets hold home-court advantage. “I’m real excited,” Capela said. “This [Warriors] team is going to be hard, it’s going to be a fight. There’s going to be a lot of adjustments after every game. It’s going to be a chess game. Of course, we’re going to be ready. They’ve been to The Finals three straight years. So we’re just excited. Everybody's excited about it. I’m sure all the NBA fans are excited about it, too.” The Warriors are fired up, too, and have heard all the chirping. “Now you’ve got to play the game,” All-Star forward Draymond Green said. “You wanted us, now you’ve got us.” The Warriors are attempting to conquer the West for a fourth straight season, but this will be their first West finals without home-court advantage. Doing it against a team specifically designed to take them down just adds to a battle wrought with connections. Harden, Paul, Green, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson all won gold medals together, be it on the Olympic or World Cup of Basketball stage. Harden and Durant were teammates on the Oklahoma City Thunder team that lost The Finals in 2012. Paul’s LA Clippers squad in 2014 was the last West foe to knock the Warriors out of the playoffs before The Finals. And the Rockets were the team the Warriors beat in the 2015 West finals to jump-start their would-be dynasty. Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni pioneered the style the Warriors have used to dominate the league while he was coaching in Phoenix, where Warriors coach Steve Kerr was the Suns GM. The three-pointers will fly from all directions. Both teams are capable of defending at a championship level. The personnel on both sides is ideally matched. Perhaps best of all, though, is that both teams are healthy and without any ready-made excuses overshadowing this showdown. It’s best on best, a test of collective wills between the “cream of the Western Conference crop,” as Curry declared after the Warriors and Rockets each won their West semifinal series just hours apart on May 8 (May 9, PHL time). The NBA world has been waiting on this heavyweight showdown. Now, it’s finally here. 3 quick questions and answers 1. Who flinches first, Kerr with his “Hamptons Five” lineup or D’Antoni with his Harden-Paul-Capela trio? Against every other team in the league, the Warriors’ small-ball unit of Durant, Thompson, Curry, Green and Andre Iguodala has a clear advantage. No one else has three shooters like Durant, Curry and Thompson playing alongside the versatile Green and Iguodala. The Rockets come close with Harden, Paul and Capela alongside defensive specialists and three-point marksmen Trevor Ariza and P.J. Tucker. It’ll be a fascinating study in styles watching them matchup against each other. But advantage Warriors ... until we see someone crack the code against the "Hamptons Five." 2. What’s more valuable -- Houston's home-court advantage or Golden State's experience? Home-court advantage is always preferred. The Warriors know that. It’s been good to them in each of the past three seasons grinding through the West playoffs to The Finals. But it’s not infallible (as the Cleveland Cavaliers taught us, rallying from a 3-1 Finals deficit to take Game 7 at Oracle Arena). Which is exactly why the Rockets need to have the threat level turned all the way up for Games 1 and 2. Lose either one of the first two games at Toyota Center and the Warriors will pounce in this series. 3. Who is the biggest wild card for each team? And, are they capable of swinging this series? It’s Eric Gordon for the Rockets and whichever big man (JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia, Kevon Looney or perhaps Jordan Bell) that Kerr taps for service for the Warriors. Gordon has to shoot more consistently than he has thus far in the playoffs (34.2 percent overall, 31.4 percent on three-pointers) if the Rockets hope to match the Warriors basket for basket. The Warriors have a big man for basically every season, it’s just a matter of which one will fare best against a much-improved Capela. He has outplayed two more heralded bigs (All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns and the Jazz's Rudy Gobert) in each of the Rockets’ series to date. Overall, though, there's too much star power in this series for any role player to swing the momentum for more than a few minutes. The number to know 100.7 --The two best offensive teams in the regular season have been the two best defensive teams in the playoffs, combining to allow just 100.7 points per 100 possessions on their way to the conference finals. In the first round, the Rockets and Warriors held the Minnesota Timberwolves and San Antonio Spurs to 5.6 and 5.2 fewer points per 100 possessions than they scored in the regular season, respectively. And in the conference semifinals, they held the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans to 7.0 and 16.2 fewer points per 100 possessions than they scored in the first round, respectively. The Rockets' starting lineup has allowed just 92 points per 100 possessions in its 153 minutes, having forced more than 21 turnovers per 100 (the best mark among lineups that have played at least 75 minutes). The Warriors' "Hamptons Five" lineup, meanwhile, has allowed less than 87 points per 100 possessions in its 54 minutes, and the champs have allowed just 94 points per 100 possessions in 250 total minutes with Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala on the floor together. These teams aren't just here because of how potent their offenses are, and the team that advances to The Finals will be the one that continues to defend at a high level. -- John Schuhmann Making the pick The Rockets made it their mission to put together a group to avenge their 2015 and 2016 playoff failures, with the Warriors serving as their primary target. They’ve got home-court advantage, an inspired Paul and what appears to be all of the requisite parts needed to interrupt the Warriors’ dynasty plans. But do they have the nerve to snatch it all from Golden State, which took a measured approach to 2017-18 and has seemingly flipped the proverbial with another championship run on the line? Experience over ambition this time. Warriors in 6. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 11th, 2018

Davis, Pelicans thump Warriors in Game 3

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com NEW ORLEANS -- The fear factor remained until the very end for Alvin Gentry. His memory is as long as Anthony Davis from head to toe, so like everyone else in the Smoothie King Center Friday night (Saturday, PHL time), the notion that a 20-point lead late in the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors was safe just didn’t compute. Gentry was caught up in the moment, trying to win a game in this Western Conference semifinal after dropping the first two in Oakland. And he was trying to block out the memory of the Pelicans’ last home game against these Warriors in the playoffs. He had the perfect seat then, next to Warriors coach Steve Kerr, his top assistant and offensive coordinator, the man in charge of engineering an epic comeback from a 20-point deficit that would lead to a Game 3 win in that first-round series and an eventual sweep of the Pelicans that helped propel the Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green-led Warriors to the NBA title in 2015. So yeah, it was on his mind, even if everyone else in the building tried to say it wasn’t, that it was ancient history and that it had no impact on this current Pelicans team. Gentry knew better than that and confessed as much as his team drew blood in this series with an emphatic 119-100 Game 3 win this time around. “Obviously, it’s going to stick with you,” Gentry said of that pivotal 2015 game that ultimately led to the Pelicans hiring him away from the Warriors. “I was on the Warrior bench then and I thought [the Pelicans] played great game. And because I was on the Warrior bench it made it so scary tonight … I was there when Steph started making threes and then Klay started making threes and before you know it a 20-point lead was nine points and then seven points, and then all of a sudden Steph made a shot out of the corner, which by the way I have a picture of that on my phone that I’ve kept all of these years and now I can eras it off. “But there just a scary team, you never feel comfortable. Even when he [Kerr] took his guys out, I was like ‘let’s play two more minutes before we take [our] guys out. Because you are just never comfortable with that team.” Gentry helped chase the ghost of that 2015 game away for the a franchise, a city and especially his stars on Friday night. Both Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday were on that team that collapsed three years ago. They needed this win more than they realized, more than they cared to acknowledge late Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) after the building had cleared out and everyone had a chance to process what had just transpired. The Pelicans beat the Warriors at their own game, employing the “appropriate fear” Gentry joked about with the media afterwards. It was all there, starting with relentless defense and sweet shooting; 14-for-31 from beyond the three-point line. It continued with the sudden bursts of energy from all directions; Solomon Hill knocking down three deep three-pointers early and reserve guard Ian Clark, crushing his former team for 18 points, including daggers down the stretch. It was punctuated by Davis and Holiday grinding away like the guys who fueled the Pelicans’ first-round sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers, and veteran point guard Rajon Rondo breathing as much verbal fire as Green, while also driving the Pelicans with 21 assists, the first player with at least 20 in a playoff game since he did it in himself in 2011 when he was with the Boston Celtics. The Warriors simply couldn’t keep up. And Curry didn’t the have the same touch or adrenaline he had in his playoff debut in Game 2, when he torched the Pelicans for 28 points in 27 minutes off the bench during his first action after missing nearly six weeks with a knee injury. “Most of it is attributed to the Pelicans,” Kerr said. “Their defense was great. They were the aggressors. I thought they brought the force, the necessary force to the game on their home floor, and these are the ebbs and flows of a playoff series, especially when you get past the first round. Everybody is really good and that’s a team that just swept Portland in the first round and on their home floor down 2-0, this is kind of what you expect.” Gentry has unleashed all that. When the Pelicans lost All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to a season-ending Achilles injury in late January, the framework for this team had to be altered completely. The Pelicans had to lean on Davis to dominate the way he did (33 points on 15-for-27 shooting, 18 rebounds, four steals and three assists). Holiday (21 points, seven rebounds, five assists) had to be set free to resume the All-Star ways he showed earlier in his career. And Rondo needed the keys to the car and the freedom to guide the Pelicans’ young stars to the edge the way he has throughout this postseason, complete with at least two more face-to-face skirmishes with Green Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). “That’s the way he plays, he talks a lot of …” Rondo said after being informed that Green suggested he was trying to bait him into a confrontation. Rondo, who joined Magic Johnson and John Stockton as the only players in NBA history with multiple 20-assist games in the postseason, understands the process a team must go through to reach that next level. He was a young point guard in Boston when he learned it from Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Doc Rivers during the Celtics’ 2008 title run and the years they spent as a contender after that. And he knows success at this stage is more about the Pelicans and what they do than it is about any beef, real or perceived, between he and Green. “It definitely is, but it starts with defense,”he said.“We were able to get some stops, defensively. It’s hard to run and keep pace when you’re taking it by the net every time which we did in game one so we cleaned up a little bit better in game two and three and look forward to making adjustments for game four.” Without Gentry understanding and trusting that same process, and facilitating the perfect environment for all of his players, especially his three biggest stars, this Pelicans team could have easily fallen out of the playoff mix in a wild Western Conference. That race that went down to the final night of the season for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets and affected the seeding for every team after the No. 1 Houston Rockets and No. 2 Warriors. Gentry had to empower Rondo to infuse the right kind of bite in both Holiday and Davis, whose voice grows louder with each game -- he didn’t hesitate to make a statement in a second half huddle Friday night, barking to his teammates that “we are not going to lose this game.” “That was the message,”he said.“We can’t lose this game. It’s always tough to come back from 0-3. Our mindset is to go out there, play, and do what we’re supposed to do from all the game planning. Whatever results happen, happen. We followed the game plan to a T tonight.” And now the real fun begins. The atmosphere will be electric for Sunday afternoon’s (Monday, PHL time) Game 4. The expectations will have changed dramatically for the Pelicans in just a few hours. Can they do it again? Will they exhibit the same appropriate fear against a championship Warriors team that will be smarting from a Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) dose of their own medicine? Gentry, the architect of this perfectly brewing storm, is counting on it. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 5th, 2018

Ellen Page’s ‘extraordinary’ wife

  "X-Men: Days of Future Past" actress Ellen Page recently attended the premiere of her horror film, "The Cured," with her wife, dancer-choreographer Emma Portner, whom she married last January. "Holy s**t, I love you so much," the Canadian actress said in the caption of an Instagram photo of her kissing Portner. "Can't believe I get to call this extraordinary woman my wife," Page said in another caption of an image showing off the couple's wedding bands, on Jan. 3, when they revealed that they tied the knot. They were first seen dating in July 2017. On Instagram and Twitter, she expressed elation for being cast in Netflix's coming superhero series, "The Umbrella ...Keep on reading: Ellen Page’s ‘extraordinary’ wife.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsMar 16th, 2018