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

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com PORTLAND, Ore. — Give Michael Malone credit, the Denver Nuggets coach is as relentless a salesman as there is in basketball. Whether it’s moving speeches delivered to his own team or pleading with television audiences to stand up and take notice of the splendid compilation of talent the franchise has stockpiled in recent years, he refuses to let up. From building the legend of Jamal Murray or waxing poetic about the virtues of Nikola Jokic, the nimble giant prone to triple-doubles on the regular, Malone is prepared to use the bully pulpit to make sure no one overlooks the Nuggets. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] A seven-game series win over San Antonio in the first round produced some of Malone’s best stuff to date, including him trumpeting Jokic as not only a legitimate Kia MVP candidate (true, this season) but also a surefire future Hall of Famer (could be, the way he’s playing). So you had to know Malone was going to be on his Nuggets informercial grind after they refused to lose Sunday (Monday, PHL time) in Portland, bouncing back after losing a grueling four-overtime thriller to the Trail Blazers here Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) with a gritty 116-112 triumph to tie this series at 2-2 headed back to Denver for Tuesday’s (Wednesday, PHL time) critical Game 5. “I’m so proud of our group,” Malone said, after his talented crew showed off the chops needed to regain the homecourt advantage they surrendered in their Game 2 loss at Pepsi Center. “And in the closing moments, I really was confident because in close games this year we were 13-3 [in games] decided by three points or less, best record in the NBA. We’re 12-1 in the second nights of back-to-backs, best record in the NBA. Our guys are tough; to come in here and win this game some 36 hours after losing a four-overtime game speaks to just how tough we are. So I wasn’t worried, we had our starting group out there. “Jamal, who I thought was phenomenal tonight, goes 11-for-11 from the foul line in a hostile environment and really kind of with the series hanging in the balance. You go down 1-3, and we all know how that story ends. I think the confidence of doing the same thing in the first round against San Antonio helped us, but our guys stepped up. We never frayed. We stayed together. And I can’t speak enough about the resiliency and toughness of our team.” And he shouldn’t. The Blazers had won 12 straight games at home dating back to the regular season and were 22-2 on their home floor since January 5. When the Nuggets saw their 10-point lead shrink to just a point with 3:02 to play as Portland closers Damian Lillard (28 points) and C.J. McCollum (29) led the charge, Denver could have easily folded up under the emotional weight of Game 3 and their current predicament. But they proved to be as resilient and tough as Malone said they were. Jokic was brilliant again, collecting his fourth triple-double (21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists) in his first postseason, second only to the five Magic Johnson piled up during his rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers. And Murray was even better, finishing with a game-high 34 points and draining six straight free throws in the frantic closing seconds to seal the win for a Nuggets team that didn’t allow fatigue, a raucous and sellout Moda Center crowd or the pressure to avoid that 3-1 hole rattle them. “It wasn’t the first time,” Murray said of his embrace of the pressure with the game on the line at the line. “I think free throws are my thing. My dad and I do a lot of training [on] free throws. Blindfolded, he’ll talk to me just like how the crowd is, put pressure on me. I take 1,000 free throws in practice to make or or two … and tonight, it ended up being six.” The number Malone focused on afterwards was 11, as in the number of playoff games Murray and Jokic have played in as they continue to establish themselves as postseason stars. “You think about how young we are and and what we are doing, going on the road and winning a tough game in a hostile environment,” Malone said, “and for Jamal to be the centerpiece of that has been phenomenal. If you’re a Denver Nuggets fan, how excited are you about this team now. More importantly, how excited are you for our future? We have a chance to be a really good team for many, many years and Jamal is going to be a big part of that.” The same goes for Jokic, obviously. He’s already an All-Star and is going to end up on the All-NBA first or second team as well as the top five of the voting for Kia MVP after the regular season he put together. That might explains why the entire Nuggets bench froze as they watched him limp to the sideline in the final moments after being kneed in the leg in the final seconds. “Your heart skips a beat,” Malone said. “Nikola is the face of our franchise, but he just got kneed, it was nothing serious and and we were able to hold on for the win.” For all of Malone’s bluster about his group, it’s not even necessary at this stage of the season. The Nuggets earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoff chase on the strength of a talented and deep roster that might not resonate with casual NBA fans, but is celebrated by those in the know. Touting their accomplishments in real time makes sense for a coach trying to empower his team to believe in themselves in what could and perhaps should be a nice stretch of playoff runs in the future. But anyone paying attention can tell that the future could be now for these Nuggets. A trip to the conference finals one year after they failed to make the postseason field on the final night of the season in what amounted to a play-in game in Minneapolis last April, is a hell of a start. Malone knows it. His team knows it. And so do the Trail Blazers, who are well aware of the opportunity they squandered in a series where wavering confidence by the Nuggets might have been the only advantage they could exploit. “The good thing for us is that we won a game on their court,” Lillard said. “So it’s not like we lose both games there. We’re in a good space, 2-2, we know we’re capable of winning on their floor and that’t what we’ve got to get done. Obviously, it’s disappointing … we didn’t want to let an opportunity like this slip, but it happens. It’s playoff basketball and we’ve got to move forward.” So do the Nuggets, which is where Malone the master motivator comes into play. And just so we’re clear about something, his sell job is genuine. He knows of what he speaks in assessing a young team on the rise, having spent time coaching in Cleveland and Golden State during the formative stages with what would turn out to be teams that made it to The Finals (2007 in Cleveland). He was on Mark Jackson’s Warriors staff when they turned the corner from a lottery team to  playoff outfit (2012-13 season), helping nurture the core group of a team that has won three of the past four NBA titles and become a potential dynasty that no one saw coming at the time. So if Malone sees special things in his current team, it’s his responsibility to shout about it every now and then, both to the basketball public and especially internally. Youngsters like Jokic and Murray, Gary Harris and Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig and Monte Morris and even veterans like Paul Millsap, Mason Plumlee and Game 4 hero Will Barton, who knocked down huge shots to help seal the deal, need to hear the positive reinforcement from their coach. And that’s not even taking into account what absorbing these moments means for Michael Porter Jr., who is spending his rookie season recovering from back surgery, and is certainly going to be a part of that bright future Malone is so passionate about. If anything, this Nuggets team is ahead of schedule, two wins shy of a trip to the Western Conference finals with three games to play. Two of those are coming on their home floor, where Denver compiled the best record (34-7) in the league during the regular season. Maybe Malone is right to speak the Nuggets’ success into existence rather than wishing and hoping for it to come to fruition without a word otherwise. But he won’t have to go all car salesmen on the final day of month much longer. A couple more performances like the one the Nuggets put on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) and this whole thing, the refurbished franchise with all the boxes checked on the roster -- now and for the foreseeable future -- sells itself. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnMay 6th, 2019

No fans, no work: Arena workers caught in sports shutdown

By TIM REYNOLDS AP Basketball Writer MIAMI (AP) — David Edelman can usually be found at a Denver Nuggets basketball game or a Colorado Rapids soccer game. As an usher, he interacts with fans in a role he calls a staple of his life. But there are no Nuggets games for at least a month. No Rapids games, either. And Edelman has no idea what he’ll do now. “This is what I do for a living,” Edelman said earlier this week, as the realization hit that sports were going on hiatus because of the coronavirus. “This is my income.” Thousands of workers would have staffed the 450 NBA and NHL games that will not be played over the next month in response to the pandemic. And then there are the more than 300 spring training and regular-season baseball games, 130 NCAA Division I men’s and women’s tournament games, 50 or so Major League Soccer matches, all international golf and tennis tournaments, and who-knows-how-many high school, small college and other entertainment events canceled or postponed because of the global health crisis. The total economic impact of the loss of sports and other events because of the pandemic — assuming only a month shutdown — is impossible to calculate but will reach the billions, easily. Tickets aren’t being sold, so teams and leagues and organizing bodies lose money. Fans aren’t going to events that aren’t happening, so taxi drivers and ride-share operators have no one to ferry to and from those places. Hotel rooms will be empty. Beers and hot dogs aren’t being sold, so concessionaires and vendors lose money. Wait staff and bartenders aren’t getting tips. Without those tips, their babysitters aren’t getting paid. The trickle-down effect sprawls in countless directions. Some teams are trying to help. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, within minutes of the NBA shutdown announcement, said he wanted to find a way to help workers who will lose money because games won’t be played. By Friday, he had his plan: “We will pay them as if the games happened,” he told The Associated Press in an email. Other teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, have made similar commitments to workers at not just NBA events but also the building’s minor-league hockey games. The Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards, Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks were among the earliest NBA franchises to reveal they’re working on how they’ll take care of arena staffs. So have the NHL’s Washington Capitals, among others, and the ownership group for Detroit's Pistons, Red Wings and Tigers on Friday said they were setting up a $1 million fund “to cover one month's wages for our part-time staff for games, concerts and events that they would have otherwise worked." “Our teams, our cities and the leagues in which we operate are a family, and we are committed to looking out for one another,” New Jersey Devils owner Josh Harris said. There were many more significant gifts revealed later Friday. Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans said he would “cover the salaries” for workers at the team’s arena for the next 30 days. Blake Griffin of the Detroit Pistons pledged $100,000 for workers there, the San Jose Sharks said part-time arena workers would get paid for all games not played and Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky said he was giving $100,000 to workers in that club’s arena -- a donation matched by his teammates and followed by another pledge from the team’s ownership group. “This is a small way for me to express my support and appreciation for these wonderful people who have been so great to me and my teammates and hopefully we can all join together to relieve some of the stress and hardship caused by this national health crisis,” Williamson wrote on Instagram. At Chicago Blackhawks hockey games alone, about 1,500 workers are in or outside the building on event nights: guest services, concessions, parking, security, box office and so on. “The per game payroll is more than $250,000,” said Courtney Greve Hack, a spokeswoman for the United Center. If that’s the NHL norm — no official numbers are available — then workers around the league would stand to lose more than $60 million if hockey does not return this season. “I get it,” said Chris Lee, who owns a coffee and smoothies franchise in Arizona that draws 70% of its annual revenue sales at spring training and Arizona Coyotes hockey games. “But this is going to be really tough.” Lee was packing up cups that won’t be used when baseball announced Thursday that spring training was ending about two weeks early. He and his staff — one full-timer, 14 part-time employees — aren’t sure what comes next. The enormity of the numbers stacks up quickly. The group that owns the Raptors and other pro sports clubs in Toronto, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, says it's trying to help 4,000 workers in that city. Extrapolate that across other Canadian and U.S. pro sports cities, and those teams could be looking at 100,000 workers feeling some sort of pinch — not counting the impact at college and other levels. Cavaliers star Kevin Love pledged $100,000 to help the workers in Cleveland address what he described as their “sudden life shift.” On Friday, reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks made a $100,000 pledge on behalf of his family “It’s bigger than basketball! And during this tough time I want to help the people that make my life, my family’s lives and my teammates lives easier," Antetokounmpo wrote on Twitter. The NCAA men’s Division I tournament generates about $900 million annually through television and marketing rights alone. In Albany, New York, which was scheduled to host men’s tournament games for the first time in 17 years, organizers estimated the economic loss from the three-day event to be about $3 million. Bars and restaurants bought tons of additional stock and perishables to prep for crowds that won't arrive. It’ll probably take a few years before the NCAA can bring the tournament back to many of the cities slated to host games next week. “It’s incredibly disheartening. There’s no question about that,” said Mark Bardack, president of public relations and management firm Ed Lewi and Associates, which had worked for more than a year on the planning of the tournament in Albany. “To have it all disappear, though obviously no one’s fault.” Some arena workers, many not wanting to be identified because of workplace policies about speaking to reporters, said they are living paycheck-to-paycheck. They’re not alone, of course: A study last fall by the American Payroll Association said 74% of workers in the U.S. would “experience financial difficulty” if their usual payday was delayed by as little as one week. In Philadelphia, Rodney Thompson works on commission selling popcorn and beer at 76ers basketball games, Flyers hockey games and Phillies baseball games. They’re all on hold. "The more I sell, the more I make,” the 56-year-old said. “The less I sell, the less I make. It would hurt me, financially. I would have no income coming in. ... I make pretty good money. But if there's no fans, there's no work.” ___ AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno in Washington, AP Sports Writers Tom Withers in Cleveland, David Brandt in Scottsdale, Arizona, Josh Dubow in San Francisco, Stephen Hawkins in Dallas and Dan Gelston in Philadelphia, and Associated Press Writers Matthew Carlson and Tim Cronin in Chicago contributed to this report. ___ The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 14th, 2020

Ingram scores 31 as Pelicans surprise Nuggets 112-100

By Pat Graham, Associated Press DENVER (AP) — Brandon Ingram scored 31 points, Derrick Favors grabbed 13 rebounds and the New Orleans Pelicans surprised Denver 112-100 on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) to halt the Nuggets' seven-game winning streak. The 9-23 Pelicans are now 2-0 against the Nuggets this season. They spoiled the festive mood at the Pepsi Center as the Nuggets played at home on Christmas for the first time in 25 years. New Orleans sprang the upset despite committing 19 turnovers. The Pelicans pulled away late courtesy of the long-range shooting of Lonzo Ball and Ingram. They also out-rebounded the Nuggets, including 14 offensive boards. New Orleans finished a four-game trip with a 3-1 mark, which includes consecutive wins for the first time in a month. Jrue Holiday had 20 points in the last of five Christmas games where the home teams went 2-3. This was the first time the Nuggets have hosted on the holiday since 1994 when they beat Seattle 105-96 in front of a sold-out crowd at McNichols Arena. The fans at Pepsi Center didn't leave in a particularly merry mood. Neither team led by more than eight points until Ball's 3-pointer with 4:07 remaining made it 104-95. That all but sealed the win. Nikola Jokic had 23 points and 10 rebounds for Denver, while Jerami Grant had 17. The Pelicans also knocked off the Nuggets 122-107 on Halloween (Nov. 1, PHL time). This looked like an entertaining matchup when the NBA schedules were released. But that was before rookie Zion Williamson had surgery to repair the lateral meniscus in his right knee on Oct. 21 (Oct. 22, PHL time). On Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time), Williamson sat on the bench dressed in a dark suit. The Pelicans have struggled without Williamson, while the Nuggets have soared to one of the top marks in the West. JJ Redick scored 13 of his 15 points in the second quarter, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from near half-court to give the Pelicans a 58-55 lead. Redick now has 1,799 career 3-pointers and moved past Klay Thompson for 16th place on the all-time list. The next name on the list is Kobe Bryant, who finished with 1,827. TIP-INS Pelicans: G Josh Hart finished with 16 points. ... Holiday had six assists. Nuggets: Former Nuggets standout and Denver native Chauncey Billups was part of the broadcast team for the game. ... Broncos pass rusher Von Miller was in attendance. BIG HONOR Nuggets coach Michael Malone appreciates the prestige of playing on Christmas. It shows his team is gaining respect. "The season we had last year, how we performed on the big stage in the playoffs, on top of being a really young, fun, exciting team to watch — with a great player in Nikola — it's an honor," Malone said. EARLY PRESENT On Christmas Eve (Dec. 25, PHL time), Malone agreed to a contract extension that runs through the 2022-23 season. He's fourth in franchise history in wins among head coaches. "The players in there, my coaches, are a big, big part of that," Malone said of having his contract extended for a second time. ZION UPDATE Asked about Williamson, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said: “He is making progress. He is in rehab. He is doing everything that he's supposed to do and he's moving forward toward playing.” UP NEXT Pelicans: Begin a two-game homestand Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) against Indiana. Nuggets: Host Memphis on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 26th, 2019

Nuggets, coach Mike Malone agree to contract extension

By Pat Graham, Associated Press DENVER (AP) — The Denver Nuggets have signed coach Michael Malone to a contract extension through the 2022-23 season. Malone has steadily helped build the Nuggets into a Western Conference contender since taking over in 2015-16. Denver advanced to the second round of the playoffs last season. “His tireless work ethic and passion are clearly reflected in the continued improvement of our roster,” Nuggets president of of basketball operations Tim Connelly said Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) in a statement. “We are all extremely excited for him to continue to lead our team as we try to build a championship level organization.” Malone guided the Nuggets to 33 wins in his first season at the helm. They jumped to 40 wins, then 46 and 54 last season, including the league’s best home record. Denver is off to a 21-8 start this season behind the play of versatile big man Nikola Jokic and point guard Jamal Murray. Malone also had his contract extended with Denver on Oct. 17, 2018. He has a 194-163 record with Denver. That puts him fourth in franchise history in wins among head coaches. “None of this would be possible without the hard work, dedication and trust from our players as well as the entire coaching staff,” Malone said in a statement. “I’d also like to thank the amazing fans in Denver who have helped make Pepsi Center one of the toughest places to play in the NBA once again. I look forward to continuing our ultimate goal of winning NBA Championships.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 25th, 2019

LeBron James keeping Father Time at bay in LA

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com The bearded man in a robe who walks with a slight hunch and carries an hourglass always lurks in the shadows, almost out of view. Nobody is paying him much mind or cares what he has to say -- at least not initially. He’s not on anyone’s radar until he appears and applies a gentle tap on the shoulder (or a violent shove in the back) of the unsuspecting. And that’s when they realize they’ve been paid a visit by someone whom Charles Barkley always says is undefeated. Yes, it is “Father Time,” the mythical creation of the ancient Greeks whose clock is more pronounced than any made in Switzerland. He is, by every metric, always on time, although that seems to vary, depending on his mood. He is gracious and respectful in some cases, unforgiving in others. Ultimately, he and only he decides when your time in sports is up. And so, it’s a matter of when, not if, he’ll throw LeBron James in reverse. But where other stars became role players or transformed into shells of their former selves, LeBron is playing at a high level. He turns 35 later this month and because he’s delivering Kia MVP-quality results here in his 17th NBA season, he is winning against time, and therefore, he is … cheating time. He’s almost at 57,000 minutes played in the regular season and playoffs combined, which ranks fourth behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant. He should pass Kobe for No. 3 in career scoring (33,643 points) by the All-Star break. The all-time scoring mark and a high ranking on the all-time assists list are in sight, too. Ask him why and how he’s doing it and LeBron is playfully coy and quick to say “fine wine.” He’ll also often credit the extra motivation he acquired last summer, when he watched the playoffs from his sofa, not far removed from a groin injury and a dreadful first season with the Lakers. Those things caused him grief and fueled his desire to reclaim his place. "I put in the work and I trust everything that I’ve done, especially this offseason," James said. "I’ve come in with a great mindset, with a healthy mindset and a healthy body." Considering his middle age, LeBron is putting together a masterful season (25.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg) while excelling as a volume 3-point shooter. His 10.8 apg leads the NBA and his effort defensively -- which was laughable last season -- is laudable now. Nobody at 35 has assembled such numbers in league history. “He’s LeBron James,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “Until he isn’t.” What’s age got to do with it? Well, nothing right now. LeBron is still capable of unleashing a facial dunk, as he did with a smirk against the Kings’ Nemanja Bjelica, who perhaps wisely never bothered to challenge it. He also covers all the court rather than, as some aging players are wont to do, play between the free throw lines. It’s true that soon enough he will wear longer shorts than anyone in the game -- not from faulty tailoring, but from constant pulling and tugging. And while the ball is in play, he will someday hear squeaking on the court and suddenly notice that sound is coming from his joints. “Nobody knows when it’ll happen to him because he’s still playing in the air,” said Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins. “And even when that goes, his basketball IQ will allow him to stay great on the ground. I mean, who gets triple doubles at his age? Only he knows when his time is up.” When that day arrives -- and assuming he doesn’t first quit while he’s ahead -- how big of a decline will it be for LeBron (and, by extension, for us) to witness? Will he fall prey to nagging injuries, get torched nightly by previously inferior players, or quit playing defense? Here’s how “Father Time” diminished six greats who came before LeBron: 1. Michael Jordan: When he retired for the second time, after his last season with the Bulls, Jordan was still very much a physical marvel and the reigning MVP and Finals MVP (he won five MVPs and six Finals MVPs). He was certifiably great for 13 of his 15 seasons and could’ve been longer if not for three years of college ball, an injury-shortened 1985-86 season and 1.5 missed seasons due to baseball. His body only began to betray him when he un-retired in 2001 to play for the Wizards. At 38, Jordan rarely dunked, wasn’t as sharp defensively and knee issues limited him to 60 games in 2001-02. 2. Jerry West: “The Logo” never had a down year in his 14-year career. He was First-Team All-Defense in 1972-73 as a 34-year-old and was solid in his final season (20.3 ppg, 6.6 apg, 2.6 spg). But he wasn’t at his peak of the late 1960s and opted to quit over pride (and money, when Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke refused to renegotiate his contract). 3. Bill Russell: His career ended mainly because he ran out of psychological fuel. Russell lost his passion to play at 35, even after winning championship No. 11 in his final season (1968-69). That season, he played 46.1 mpg in the playoffs, averaging 10.8 ppg, 20.5 rpg and 5.4 apg. While those numbers are perhaps skewed by the way the game was played back then, they’re still remarkable. 4. Wilt Chamberlain: A man of astonishing stats, Chamberlain averaged a league-leading 18.6 rpg and shot 72.7% overall in his final season (1972-73). Knee issues had long forced Wilt into being a statue in the paint and a third option on offense. After that final NBA season, he jumped from the Lakers to the ABA for money. San Diego offered him $600,000 to be a player-coach, but his Lakers contract prevented him from playing. Wilt coached instead, doing so with disinterest, often not showing up for games or practice. He quit basketball completely after that season. 5. Kobe Bryant: Those roundtrip flights to Germany to get oil for his knees managed to delay the obvious for a few years, but a torn Achilles in 2013 at 35 was the killer. Kobe, much like Jordan and LeBron, was elite into his 30s. And he’ll always have that 60-point send-off. 6. Karl Malone: He won his final MVP at 35 and was built for durability, never suffering a serious injury. He averaged 20.6 ppg in his final season with Utah (2002-03) as he approached 40. By then, he had morphed into a jump shooter and lost his instincts for offensive rebounding. He bowed out as a ring-chasing role player with the Lakers in ‘03-04. Larry Bird was ruined by debilitating back issues at 32. Abdul-Jabbar often only jogged downcourt his last six seasons. Tim Duncan became a secondary option in his last four seasons while Dirk Nowitzki averaged more than 20 ppg once over his final five seasons. Vince Carter is 42 and proudly still playing, but clearly is 10 years beyond his prime. Allen Iverson was the last to know his quickness was gone. “For me, it was Year 12 when it hit me,” said Lakers great James Worthy, who had knee issues. “My patented move was taking off from somewhere inside the free throw line. I found myself halfway there once and I started to descend before I got close to the rim. I had to do a George Gervin flip instead of a dunk. “It’s different now, with this generation of players. I was eating Burger King before games and working out on Nautilus machines. I went to college with Lawrence Taylor and I remember him telling me, ‘I don’t wanna get hit anymore.’ And he’s a reckless guy. LeBron will wake up one day and he won’t have that drive. He’ll be tired and while physically he’s in such great shape, something will go away, either a move or speed.” LeBron seems determined to be the outlier. He spends, by various estimations, more than $1 million on his body for round the clock therapy and a personal trainer. Last summer, he refused to allow the shooting schedule for the movie “Space Jam 2” to interfere with his schedule, rising at 3:30 a.m. to train before heading to the set. He has more than once fantasized about staying in the league long enough to possibly play against or alongside his son, Bronny (now a high school freshman). “LeBron is not only a great player but a physical marvel,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “Probably the best athlete to ever walk this planet. I’ve never seen anybody in my lifetime in any sport whom I would consider a better athlete. It’s one of his best attributes and the one that goes the least noticed. You just take it for granted that he’s out there every night and still doing his things.” LeBron exchanged playful tweets with Tom Brady last month, with LeBron saying the two are “one in the same.” Brady is a tame comparison to LeBron. Brady doesn’t run 94 feet and back for nine months (playoffs included) and when tired can simply hand off to the running back. Same for NFL legend Joe Montana, who made the Pro Bowl at 37. MLB legend Nolan Ryan threw once every four or five days. Maybe tennis star Roger Federer, who won Wimbledon at 36 and still reaches finals at 38, comes closest. “It wouldn’t shock me if LeBron played until he was 40,” West said. “He’s such a great athlete and knows enough about his body that he’ll probably leave before he declines.” After watching Robert Parish waste away on the Bulls’ bench, Jordan said he’d never allow himself to stay in the game that long. His pride and unwillingness to be seen as hanging on meant he’d walk away first. LeBron doesn’t think of the twilight and given how he’s playing now, that doesn’t appear to be in the future, anyway. “I was with the Nuggets late in my career and the funny thing is I was leading the league in assists,” said Mark Jackson, fourth on the all-time assists list. “There was a loose ball, a deflection, and it’s right here, and I can go get it. I made the move to go get it, and before I could get anywhere near it, a kid out of nowhere, and in a blur, snatched it. Gets the ball, by the time I get to the spot where the ball is, he’d already dunked it. Young kid by the name of Allen Iverson. I knew it would never be the same.” Jackson says LeBron is so multi-gifted that he can endure decline in one area and still flourish in another. “He also has the knowledge, pace and understanding that he’ll still be able to be effective even when he slows down,” Jackson said. “I don’t think it’ll be drastic. He can average a triple-double for the next five years.” LeBron is taking great satisfaction in fighting age while tweaking skeptics, both real and imagined, who wondered if decline was imminent. He cites that “Washed King” nickname -- did somebody actually call him that? -- as motivation. “It’s the personal pressure I put on myself,” LeBron said. Eventually, like everyone, he’ll take the L from “Father Time.” Until then, LeBron is making us wonder if that mythical man exists. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 5th, 2019

The NBA’s West race should be incredibly good this season

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Stephen Curry knew roster change was inevitable. That being said, Curry and the Golden State Warriors aren’t changing their expectations. The five-time defending Western Conference champions aren’t the popular pick to represent their side of the league in this season’s NBA Finals, understandable after losing the likes of Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala. But Curry said the Warriors will strive to remain what they’ve been over the last half-decade — “a team that’s feared across the league.” “Look at every era of basketball,” Curry said. “For a team to sustain this type of level of play and this greatness, it doesn’t happen that often. And when you need to retool, it may look different, but the great teams, great players figure it out as they go.” Thing is, there are so many great players — and potentially great teams — in the West this season. The Los Angeles Clippers are the prohibitive favorite to win the NBA title, at least according to oddsmakers in Las Vegas, after landing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Los Angeles Lakers still have LeBron James, and added Anthony Davis. Houston reunited James Harden with Russell Westbrook. Denver and Utah bring back strong cores. Portland might have the league’s best backcourt. “You just can’t take it for granted,” Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti said. “It’s really, really hard to win games in the NBA, especially the Western Conference, the way it is now.” Maybe harder than ever. “We want to maintain the culture that we’ve built, but we want to make sure our players are put in the best position to succeed, and the last four years we pretty much knew exactly what that meant,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We don’t really know what it means this year. That’s why we have a lot of work ahead, but it’s exciting. I’m looking forward to it.” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said the West will be great for fans and the league — not so much for coaches, players and owners. “Somebody is probably going to come in ninth and get fired when they shouldn’t because they did a great job,” D’Antoni said. “But that’s the way it is.” A look at the West, in predicted order of regular-season finish: PLAYOFF BOUND 1. Denver — The team that few are talking about, for puzzling reasons. They’re young, they already know how to win and the Nuggets’ win total has risen in each of coach Michael Malone’s first four seasons there. No reason to think that won’t continue. 2. Houston — James Harden is entering his 11th season. Russell Westbrook is entering his 12th. Mike D’Antoni is entering the last year of his contract. It sure seems like title-or-bust time in Houston, and the wide-open West could be for their taking. 3. L.A. Clippers — When Paul George gets back from his recovery from shoulder surgeries to join Kawhi Leonard on the new-look Clippers, this is going to be a team with frightening potential on defense. They’ll peak toward the end, and could win it all. 4. L.A. Lakers — This is absolutely not to say they’re the fourth-best team in the West. LeBron James knows it’s all about April, May and June, and he certainly isn’t going to care where the Lakers are seeded as long as they’re in the playoffs. 5. Utah — Donovan Mitchell is just starting to come into his own, Rudy Gobert is still the defensive player of the year and Joe Ingles is better than people realize. The addition of Bojan Bogdanovic was big, as was adding Mike Conley — if healthy. 6. Golden State — The five-time defending West champs lost Durant, Iguodala and Shaun Livingston — plus won’t have Klay Thompson for most of the season. But the Warriors still have Curry. Relax. They’ll be fine. 7. Portland — This is way too low, but that’s life in the West right now. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are elite, Terry Stotts is underrated and don’t be surprised if the Blazers tweak the roster after Jusuf Nurkic returns to take a title shot. 8. San Antonio — LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan lead a team that features a young core of Lonnie Walker IV, Dejounte Murray and Derrick White. Oh, and Gregg Popovich is still there. Count the Spurs out at your own risk. IN THE MIX 9. Dallas — Dirk Nowitzki is gone, but the new star-duo pairing of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis has enormous potential. The Mavs haven’t won a playoff series since the 2011 NBA Finals, but this season will see them get closer. 10. Minnesota — Ryan Saunders’ first full season will lead to improvement, but even a five-game leap to .500 won’t get it done as far as a West playoff berth this season. But if Karl-Anthony Towns plays 82 games at his potential, who knows? 11. Sacramento — Rick Adelman took the Kings to their last playoff appearance in 2006. Luke Walton is the team’s 10th different coach since; he has Harrison Barnes, De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley and Buddy Hield, yet still faces a tall task. 12. New Orleans — Zion Williamson’s knee is already a concern, not a good sign for the No. 1 overall pick. Lonzo Ball’s shot is better and J.J. Redick has never missed a postseason. But if Williamson isn’t full-go, it may be tough sledding for New Orleans. FACING LONG ODDS 13. Oklahoma City — There is a lot of talent on this team: Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams. If all goes right, the Thunder will contend for a spot. Or will they make more trades and collect more picks? 14. Phoenix — Devin Booker is entering his prime. But the Suns have averaged 22 wins over the last four seasons, are on their fourth coach — Monty Williams — in a span of 24 months and still seem overmatched in the loaded West. 15. Memphis — The Grizzlies’ first-round pick in 2020 is top-six protected or else it conveys to Boston. The Celtics might not want to plan on getting this one. This year’s goal for the Grizzlies? Simple: Get Ja Morant settled into his new job. WHAT TO KNOW Three-Team Ring Circus Kawhi Leonard has a chance to win a ring with a third different team if the Clippers win the title. LeBron James and Danny Green would do the same if the Lakers win it all. The only players to win a championship with three different franchises: John Salley and Robert Horry. Spurs Streak San Antonio is bidding for a 23rd consecutive playoff appearance, which would give the Spurs outright possession of the NBA record. They’re currently tied with Philadelphia with 22 straight playoff trips (the 76ers’ franchise did it from 1950 through 1971, that span starting when they were the Syracuse Nationals). Wide Open The league’s general managers have wildly different views on which team will win the West. In NBA.com’s annual preseason polling of GMs, six different West teams — the Clippers, the Lakers, Golden State, Houston, Denver and Portland — got at least one vote as the conference’s best. LeBron Milestone LeBron James has 993 games of 20 or more points, third-most in NBA history. When he gets to 1,000 of those, he’ll be the last to hit that milestone for many years. Kevin Durant may be the next; he’s got 720. Good Sign With James Harden and Russell Westbrook, Houston becomes the sixth team to have two players who each won an MVP in the last three seasons. Of the other five, four — the 1959 and 1960 Boston Celtics, the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers and the 2017 Golden State Warriors — won an NBA title. The other was the 1984 76ers......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 19th, 2019

Young Denver Nuggets set sights much higher this season

By Arnie Stapleton, Associated Press DENVER (AP) — The Nuggets didn’t make major upgrades over the summer like so many of their Western Conference opponents, and they’re fine with that — they figure Denver will turn into a desired destination soon enough. The Nuggets return a young corps that won 54 games last season and came within four points of reaching the conference championship. Eight of their top 12 players are 25 years old or younger, including All-Star center Nikola Jokic, power forward Jerami Grant and fascinating forward Michael Porter Jr., the No. 14 selection in 2018 who sat out last season as he recovered from back surgery. Although they didn’t make any splashy moves in the offseason, the Nuggets were busy over the summer, acquiring Grant from Oklahoma City, picking up Paul Millsap’s $30 million option and signing point guard Jamal Murray to a $170 million extension. Five months later and coach Michael Malone is still blown away by The Joker’s playoff performance that put him in some pretty elite company. In 14 games, the Nuggets’ unpretentious 24-year-old superstar averaged 25.1 points, 13 rebounds and 8.4 assists. The only other players to post averages of at least 20 points, 10 boards and eight assists while playing at least 10 games in the postseason are Oscar Robertson in 1963, Wilt Chamberlin in 1967 and LeBron James in 2015. “Going into the year I don’t know how you can even have an MVP discussion without mentioning his name because of what he did last year, for a guy that is supposedly unathletic and out of shape,” Malone said. “I think he proved a lot of people wrong.” So did the Nuggets, who ended a six-year playoff drought by going 54-28 and becoming the youngest No. 2 seed ever. They won their first playoff series since 2009 with a seven-game ouster of Gregg Popovich and the Spurs in the opening round before falling at home in Game 7 to the Trail Blazers. “We saw our young players grow up,” Malone said. “You can’t replicate those 14 games in the postseason. You can’t replicate two Game 7s. And I think all of our players have grown from that experience. They’re coming back more confident.” COACH’S CAUTION Now that the Nuggets have broken through and tasted playoff success, Malone’s main goal is to make sure his team guards against letting up. “That’s going to be our greatest challenge,” he said. “It’s not the Lakers, the Clippers, the Warriors, the Jazz or Rockets. It’s us. Fighting ourselves and fighting human nature and not thinking that we’ve arrived, because we haven’t done a damn thing yet.” NO JOKE Malone wants more AND less out of Jokic. “We became so reliant upon Nikola in the postseason,” he said. “I go back to Game 7, when we lost to Portland and he came to my office he’s crying and apologizing for missing a big free throw. He missed the free throw because he was dead tired. The guy was playing 40 minutes a night. Hopefully this year in the playoffs — if we get back to the playoffs — we don’t have to be so reliant on him.” MOTIVATED MURRAY Murray cringes when he hears someone say the Nuggets can end Golden State’s reign out West and reach the NBA Finals. “We need to have the mentality that we’re going to win it,” he said. Murray figures the Nuggets have all the ingredients: “a passing center, shooters all around, the deepest bench.” What they need is more consistency, starting with his own. “I can’t go 4 for 18 or whatever I was in Game 7” against Portland, he said. GRATEFUL GRANT The Nuggets acquired Grant from the Thunder for a 2020 first-round pick. The 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward is coming off a breakout season that saw him set career highs in points (13.6) and rebounds (5.2). He also blocked 100 shots and collected 61 steals. “It’s good to get off a sinking ship,” said Grant, the son of longtime NBA player Harvey Grant. “I couldn’t really ask for a better situation.” PERSISTENT PORTER “I have no pain. All my flexibility is back and I feel pretty good out there,” said Porter, who has only played in three games since high school because of his bad back (and a knee injury that scuttled his Summer League plans). “No matter how many times you fall it’s up to you if you’re going to get back up, even if you fall a million times,” Porter said. “Eventually my time will come when I’m meant to be a basketball player.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 16th, 2019

The NBA s new coach s challenge could be a timely tool for teams to wield

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com Cleveland’s John Beilein, the only new-to-the-league coach this season, actually got a jump on his 29 rivals in one department. To better familiarize himself with the Cavaliers team he was taking over, Beilein broke from the tradition that has assistant coaches working the sideline at NBA Summer League. When the situation arose in a game in Las Vegas for Cleveland to invoke the experimental “coaches’ challenge” rule, Beilein was the one calling for it. And the one getting shot down. “It was an out-of-bounds play,” Beilein recalled during a break at the coaches’ meetings in Chicago last month. “My player came to the bench saying, ‘It’s definitely our ball.’ I thought, ‘Great, this is why we have it now.’ “We came back out. It was their ball.” There will be a lot of dashed hopes in 2019-20, as well as some pivotal reversals, with the NBA’s adoption of the latest replay wrinkle. As in MLB and the NFL, coaches will have the opportunity to appeal, in real time, certain referees’ decisions. All the “triggers” of the existing replay system remain, but now the teams will have a sense of control. One time each game. “I’ve been a proponent of it for many years, just as an additional layer of security,” said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, who also serves as president of the NBA Coaches Association. “If a call’s inaccurate for any reason, it’s just an extra chance -- particularly if the game’s on the line -- to get it right. “The question has always been, how to execute it. Where to start. Sounds like this is going to start with a high level of simplicity. Then we’ll see where it goes.” Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone thought back to 2017-18, when the Nuggets missed the postseason after a loss at Minnesota in the season’s final game. Like every game, there were a handful of what-if moments. “Think about it,” Malone said. “Two years ago, one play could have been the difference for us between the lottery and playoffs. That saves jobs, that gets home/road seeding, there are a lot of things that it can affect.” How the coach’s challenge works For this season, the challenge can be made in three situations: to question a foul called against that team’s player, to dispute an out-of-bounds decision or to question a goaltending/basket interference ruling against that team. The first type applies to the entire game; the others to the first 46 minutes (and first three minutes of overtime), after which the established triggers take over. Challenging a call requires the coach to first call a timeout and then inform the referees he wants a review. There are new court administrators at every game this season to help with the process. Also, fans will notice green “challenge lights” at the scorer’s table -- the one nearest the challenging bench will blink. Beilein said he sought redress a couple of times in Las Vegas, without satisfaction. “They never reversed their decisions,” he said, “but it’s really a good idea to do, to let us have this say in a game. You ask, they review it. If they don’t see it, you just move on with the game. It puts things away, so we’re not grinding away all night on that call. It’s over. It’s done.” If a call is reversed, the challenge is successful and the team’s timeout is restored. If the initial ruling stands, the challenge is deemed unsuccessful and that timeout is gone. Win or lose the appeal, the allotment stays the same: One challenge per team per game. The early chatter among coaches has been, when is the best time to use it? In Sunday’s Hornets-Celtics game, Brad Stevens and James Borrego waited until the final minute. Both challenges failed. “I’ll probably save it till the fourth quarter,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “I’m going to be really excited about it when it helps wins me some games. And I’m going to really hate it when it costs me.” Said Malone: “The funny thing is, we always say, ‘The game never comes down to just the last play. Something that happened in the first quarter was just as important.’ But the reality it, when you get to the last two minutes, if you have the coaches challenge in your pocket, that could come up with a really big play or give you momentum.” The refs’ crew chief will have the final determination of fouls. He or she also will be able to “clean up” the play in question if, for instance, they notice the foul was assessed incorrectly or if a different foul by either side occurred before the one being reviewed. Note: infractions such as 3-second violations or traveling, if uncalled initially, can’t be assessed in a challenge review. The league’s Replay Center in Secaucus, N.J., will adjudicate out-of-bounds and goaltending challenges. Confidence key in using challenge At the NBCA September meetings in Chicago, the feature -- also given a trial run in the G League in recent seasons -- was discussed in a ballroom session with referees and supervisors of the officials. The next day, they all spent time on a basketball court, walking through the particulars. Borrego took advantage of his proximity in Charlotte to talk with Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera about his strategy in using the NFL’s version. Those coaches physically throw a red flag to signal their challenge and have time to hear from assistant coaches in a stadium booth upstairs who have seen video to determine their chances of reversal. The NBA won’t have either flags to throw or helpers checking. The coaches will have to alert the refs by twirling their fingers in the air, the current universal symbol for “replay.” They’ll need to act before an opposing player is handed the ball to shoot free throws or toss it inbounds, or before a jump ball. “We haven’t had this conversation with them yet, but players never think they fouled,” Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said Monday. “It’s never out on them. We’re gonna have to say, ‘OK, did you really not foul?’ Somehow figure out, ‘OK, you have to tell the truth.’ “That kind of feedback from them is going to be important in a challenge situation.” The preseason was only a few days old but, in this era of analytics, Chicago Bulls coach Jim Boylen had his crew gather data on every early challenge. He’s working up a list of situations in which to use it. Late in games? Sure. But not so late that the existing triggers take over for a disputed out-of-bounds play. Then the coach might go home without using it. “You’re always concerned about [burning] the timeout,” Boylen said. “You’d better be sure. Your [viewing] angles better be good.” Not everyone is a fan of the experiment, which will be evaluated after the season by the NBA’s Competition Committee. Some skeptics fret that adding reviews will mean more delays in games that already have replay interruptions. Then there was Monty Williams, the Phoenix Suns’ new coach. Part of his dislike? Genuine empathy for the referees. “I’m not a fan of it at all,” Williams said. “Sometimes it’s to your detriment, but I think human error is part of our game. I know we’re trying to get it right, but sometimes [replay] causes referees to get second-guessed a lot. They already are. “And this is just one more thing for coaches to have to do. Now we’re all going to have to delegate a guy on our bench to monitor things.  “If we’re gonna challenge, I wish it was a segment -- say, the last three minutes of the game. I want to coach. I don’t want to be focused all night on, ‘Should I have challenged [a call made earlier]?’ ” Fans might notice other rules changes and priorities for officials this season: * Coaches will be required to submit their starting lineups earlier now, making them public at least 30 minutes before tipoff. This change is seen largely as a nod to the looming arrival of legal sports betting. Knowing the starters earlier -- and which regulars might be sitting out with injuries or for “load management” -- means more wagers can be made with the most updated information. (A change still can be made if a player gets hurt or aggravates an injury during warm-ups.) * The Replay Center will take over determinations of 2-pointers vs. 3-pointers, operating automatically. * There figures to be a spate of traveling calls early this season. The referees have made that infraction one of their “Points of Education” for 2019-20. That means a “more stringent enforcement” of the existing rule, according to Monty McCutchen, the NBA’s VP, head of referee development and training. The league has gone so far as to include the concept of “the gather” in its rule book now. That -- the moment when a player has full control of the ball and thus the point from which he can take two steps – has been used for years by game officials. But now it has been codified, which helps when discerning variations such as steps taken backward (rather than in forward progress) or in the “Euro-step.” McCutchen noted that, in years past, the NBA game was played through the post at a slower pace. Referees evaluated plays starting with the defenders. Now, with hand-checking long gone and 3-pointers pulling players farther out on the court, the refs’ sequence of viewing plays has shifted to feet, then release, then defender. Other Points of Education for the refs this year have focused on illegal contact initiated by offensive players, “freedom of movement” issues and “respect for the game” moments, which basically are emotional overreactions to calls that exceed allowable guidelines. 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 NewsOct 12th, 2019

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 28th, 2019

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 15th, 2019

Nuggets sign Jamal Murray to contract extension

Denver Nuggets press release The Denver Nuggets have signed guard Jamal Murray to a five-year contract extension, President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly announced Wednesday. Murray, 22, had the best season of his young career in 2018-19, helping lead Denver to 54 games wins and the number two seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.  In 75 games (74 starts), he averaged career-highs in points (18.2), assists (4.8) and rebounds (4.2) while shooting 43.7% from the field, 36.7% from three and 84.8% from the free throw line. He posted a career-high 48 points vs. the Boston Celtics on Nov. 5th and on Dec. 29th at Phoenix he became the first Nugget ever to record 46+ points, 6+ rebounds and 8+ assists on the road. Murray also became the fourth Nuggets player in franchise history to eclipse 3500 points through his first three seasons (VanDeWeghe, Thompson, Anthony). “It’s an exciting day for our franchise to officially announce this contract extension with Jamal,” said President and Governor Josh Kroenke. “My father and I know what kind of kid Jamal is both on and off the court, and there wasn’t a second of hesitation to get this done as soon as we could. He is an extremely talented player and we look forward to watching him continue to grow as one of the cornerstones of this team for many years to come.” “The Kroenke family has shown tremendous commitment to continuity and stability, and this is just another example of trusting in what we are all building together as an organization,” stated President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly. “We were thrilled when we were able to draft Jamal in 2016 because we believed then, as we do now, that he is an extraordinary player and a key part of what we want to accomplish here in Denver. Jamal has shown what he is capable of in his first three seasons in the NBA, particularly in last year’s playoff run, and his future is extremely bright.”   The Kitchener, Ontario, native appeared in his first postseason in 2019 helping the Nuggets reach the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 10 years. Murray elevated his game, averaging, 21.3 points, 4.7 assists and 4.4 rebounds while shooting 42.5% from the field and 90.3% from the charity stripe in 36.3 minutes per game. He posted eight games of 20 or more points, including 34 points in back-to-back games in the second round vs. Portland. Murray became just the eighth player in NBA history to post 290+ points and 20+ three point makes in his first postseason appearance. He is also just the fifth player since 2008 to average 21+ points, 4+ rebounds and 4+ assists in a first-time playoff run. “First I’d like to say congratulations to Jamal, I couldn’t be happier for him and his family,” said Head Coach Michael Malone. “He is a special young man who I’ve been lucky to coach since he was a rookie and I look forward to many more years together. Jamal has put in the time and hard work from day one and I have zero doubt he will continue to do so with the intense drive of becoming the best basketball player he possibly can and helping lead the Nuggets to our ultimate goal, an NBA Championship.” Murray was drafted by the Nuggets with the 7th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft out of the University of Kentucky. Over three seasons with Denver, he has appeared in 238 games (164 starts), averaging 14.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists while shooting 36.2% from long range in 28.5 minutes per game. He has increased his scoring, rebounding and assist average each season of his career. Additionally, the Nuggets own a record of 42-22 (.656) when Murray scores at least 20 points throughout his career. “I want to thank the man above for showing my family and I how life works in a full circle,” said Jamal Murray. “I also want to thank the Nuggets organization for believing in a kid from a small unheard-of town in Canada, and finally to Nuggets fans, I can’t wait to shoot more arrows for you all.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 25th, 2019

NBA reveals awards finalists for 2018-19 season

NBA press release NEW YORK – The NBA today announced the finalists for six awards that honor top performers from the 2018-19 regular season: Kia NBA Most Valuable Player, Kia NBA Rookie of the Year, Kia NBA Sixth Man Award, Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Kia NBA Most Improved Player and NBA Coach of the Year.  The winners of these awards will be revealed at the 2019 NBA Awards presented by Kia on Monday, June 24 at 9 p.m. ET on TNT (Tuesday, June 25, PHL time).  The third annual NBA Awards will take place at Barker Hangar in Los Angeles. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The finalists for the six annual awards, based on voting results from a global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters, are below: Kia NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder James Harden, Houston Rockets Kia NBA Rookie of the Year Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns Luka Don?i?, Dallas Mavericks Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks Kia NBA Sixth Man Award            Montrezl Harrell, LA Clippers Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers Lou Williams, LA Clippers Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz Kia NBA Most Improved Player De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors NBA Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks Michael Malone, Denver Nuggets Doc Rivers, LA Clippers Complete voting results for each award will be posted on pr.nba.com the night of the 2019 NBA Awards presented by Kia. The 2019 NBA Awards presented by Kia will also feature the announcement of the winners for the NBA Basketball Executive of the Year Award, the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award, the NBA Sportsmanship Award, the Seasonlong NBA Cares Community Assist Award presented by Kaiser Permanente, the NBA Hustle Award and the fan-voted House of Highlights Moment of the Year. In addition, basketball icons Magic Johnson and Larry Bird will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award and broadcasting legend Robin Roberts will be honored with the Sager Strong Award......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

Hood hopes to be ready for Game 1 after hyperextending knee

DENVER (AP) — Portland guard/forward Rodney Hood remains hopeful he can play in the opening game of the Western Conference Finals after hyperextending his left knee. Hood left Game 7 on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) against Denver after colliding with Nuggets forward Torrey Craig on a screen in the third quarter. Hood stayed down on the floor, clutching at his left knee as trainers checked on him. Hood was helped into the locker room. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] He had six points in 20 minutes as the Trail Blazers beat the Nuggets 100-96 to advance. “They checked my knee and everything was stable,” Hood said. “Major relief.” Game 1 of the conference finals is Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time) at Golden State. “Day-by-day,” Hood said. “Hopefully the pain goes down. Hopefully it’s feeling better by Tuesday.” In a Game 6 win at Portland, Hood had 25 points. Nuggets coach Michael Malone referred to him as the “MVP of the series.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 13th, 2019

No extra drama needed for Nuggets, Blazers in Game 7

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com DENVER -- All the posturing you can muster won’t win you this all-important game. No amount of name-calling, shoving, screaming, shouting or tough guy antics and gestures will save you when it’s all on the line in Game 7 of the NBA playoffs. And there are enough guys playing for both the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers that know it, even if most of them have only observed a Game 7 from the stands or even further afar. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] It’s a simple proposition, these Game 7 affairs. You win, you play on. Your season continues and all of the goals you set are still attainable. You lose, you’re done. None of the things you believed in before that last opening tip of the season remain. Pack up your stuff and head home for the summer. That’s the reality, the fate both the Nuggets and Trail Blazers are facing Sunday afternoon (Monday morning, PHL time) at Pepsi Center, the all-important Game 7 showdown in the Western Conference semifinals that will define one team’s season and render the other’s mute. There’s a finality to it, a certain air of drama that cannot be found anywhere else in the postseason. So it doesn’t matter if you have “sassy *** dudes, frontrunners,” as Blazers reserve guard Seth Curry put it after things got chippy late in Game 6 Thursday night (Friday, PHL time), one side or broadcast talent on the other taking cheap and unnecessary shots at injured Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, Sunday afternoon's (Monday, PHL time) business is an up-and-down affair for all involved. Win and you play on or lose and you’re done. “I’m looking forward to Game 7,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Games 7s are special.” No extracurricular activity from either side will change that fact. “Both teams want to win the game,” said Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. “Basketball is an emotional game. Of course, we’re going to talk trash or whatever. Both teams just want to win the game.” That doesn’t mean you don’t look for every advantage possible to help fuel your cause. Blazers big man Zach Collins played a huge role in making sure this series found its way to Game 7, joining Rodney Hood in providing a huge boost off the bench in Game 6. And it was more than just his season-high 29 minutes and playoff career-high 14 points and five blocks. It was his physicality and activity around the rim and in the paint on both ends of the floor, his refusal to allow the Nuggets to find a groove. “We’ve just got to go in and keep playing our game,” Collins said. “I said it after the game, [Denver] has been way too comfortable for a lot of games in this series and [in Game 6] we made them a little uncomfortable. We just need to continue that, regardless of if it’s a Game 7 or not. Obviously, it’s win or go home for both teams. It’s going to be very difficult, especially in [Denver] to go in and get a win, but we can do it.” The Nuggets leaned on their sterling 34-7 record at Pepsi Center during the regular season, the best home mark in the league, as a confidence booster two weeks ago. “We have the best home court advantage in the NBA,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We’re going to rely on that once again and try to close it out in Game 7.” The Nuggets owning that recency advantage: they needed a Game 7 win here to survive the San Antonio Spurs in the first round, means something. The game and that series provided lessons Malone’s postseason rookies need to tap into this time around, even if they don’t realize it now. “It’s weird,” Nuggets guard Jamal Murray said. “Everybody keeps talking about experience. And I just want to say that we’ve been here before. [We go] back home and regroup like we did for San Antonio, come back with energy and just … be ready to play. I think we had too many lapses [in Game 6]. Dame [Lillard] felt really comfortable, he wasn’t comfortable last time, so we need to be tougher on him … like I said, just regroup, come back and get a win.” If only it was that simple. The pressure to get out of the first round is one thing. The opportunity to make the conference finals is a different monster. The Nuggets last played in a conference final in 2009, when Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Nene led the way. That group had a mix of seasoned pros who had championship (Billups) and extensive experience (Billups and Martin) competing on a championship level, to go along with younger and emerging superstar talent like Anthony. And they were ultimately no match for the Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol-led Los Angeles Lakers. So these current Nuggets are well within their right to acknowledge the very real anxiety that comes with a game of this magnitude. “No nerves, “Jokic said. “I just felt something different the first game of the playoffs because it was something different. Just because we call it the playoffs, Besides that, everything else is the same.” The Blazers haven’t seen a Game 7 since a 2003 first-round series against Dallas. But they do not believe the absence of experience in this case makes any bit of difference. “It’s just another game -- a game we want to win, obviously,” Blazers guard CJ McCollum said. “We understand what’s at stake. Somebody’s got to go home. Somebody’s got to go to Cabo, go to Cancun, as Chuck [Barkley] would say. For us, it’s go out there and compete, find the coach’s game plan, understanding that it’s going to be a pretty hostile crowd and they’ll be confident at home, but we’ve got to bring the energy and pressure just like we did [in Game 6].” Damian Lillard has guided his team this far and promised to stick to the basics in the days and hours leading up to the game. Rested bodies and minds are crucial. “The number one thing is have our minds right,” he said. “Don’t overthink, don’t make some big crazy deal or anything like that. We’re going to play a basketball game. It’s a big game and we’ve won on their floor before and we know what type of mentality we had when we did that. We’ve got to go out there, be tough, be physical, be sharp in our scouting report, play for each other, play with each other on both ends and just put the pressure on them. “Make them earn everything on their offensive end and then when we get the ball, make sure that we get shots up,” Lillard continued with his simple but extremely detailed breakdown of what needs to be done. “Value every possession, don’t go out there turning the ball over, playing into their hands where they get an opportunity to get their crowd involved. So that has to be our mentality, to just be sharp, be physical, go in there ready to take the game, because the only way it’s going to happen is us going in there and taking it.” It’s a Game 7, after all, no extra drama needed. 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 12th, 2019

Nuggets put Blazers on the ropes with series-shifting Game 5 rout

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com DENVER — Two points separated the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers after the first four, grueling games of these Western Conference semifinals. They piled up the same number of three-pointers and free throws as well. The games were that good, that tight, and the difference between the two teams was negligible at best. Then Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time) happened. Paul Millsap happened. Nikola Jokic happened. Jamal Murray happened. The manifestation of a Nuggets team that’s been dancing with a destiny that leads to the Western Conference finals, finally happened. Their 124-98 rout of the Trail Blazers in Game 5 at Pepsi Center was the sort of declaration Nuggets coach Michael Malone has been predicting for his team since they were locked into a back-and-forth struggle with the San Antonio Spurs in the first round. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] They evened the series Sunday (Monday, PHL time) in Portland, showing mettle beyond their years by snapping the Trail Blazers’ 12-game home winning streak that dated back to the regular season, with an inspired effort to stave off the certain doom of a 3-1 deficit. Tuesday night’s (Wednesday, PHL time) salvo was a seismic shift in the opposite direction. The Nuggets’ biggest lead was 31 points and their intentions were plain for everyone to see. Millsap roasted the Blazers for 24 points and eight rebounds, dominating while being featured more and executing his considerable advantage in small-ball situations. “The best thing about Paul Millsap is he’s true to himself, he never tries to be something he’s not,” Malone said. “He’s not a rah-rah guy, he’s not a guy that’s going to be screaming and yelling. But I think his calm demeanor has an effect on our group. Young team going through all of this for the first time and when you can look to a four-time All-Star with 90 playoff games under his belt, that’s reassuring. He’s kind of the calm for our team and I think that has a tremendous impact on all of our young players.” Two in particular during this postseason and this series, to be sure. Jokic led the way with 25 points, 19 rebounds and six assists before fouling out late, leaving little doubt as to who deserves to wear the crown as the best big man in the league right now. Murray was splendid again, with 18 points and nine assists, while his backcourt mate Gary Harris chipped in with 16 points and six rebounds. Will Barton and Malik Beasley scored 10 points each off the bench, leading a 33-point bench scoring effort that will need to travel back to Portland for Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) Game 6 if the Nuggets have any chance of winning three straight and ending this series in six games. “We know going to Portland for Game 6 is going to be really tough,” Malone said, referencing his team’s Game 6 struggles in the first round. “Game 6 in San Antonio, we did not come ready to play, mentally or physically. I hope that we have a much different mindset going in to Portland for Game 6.” The Blazers have some serious tweaking to do, in a short amount of time, as well. Their starters didn’t even play in the fourth quarter, Terry Stotts acknowledging that the 30-point hole his team was fighting out of might have been too large, given the circumstances. And the need to preserve the energy of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and the crew for what sets up as their biggest game of the season was obvious. “At this point, it’s one game at a time facing elimination,” Lillard said. “We know that we’re more than capable of getting it done in the next game. We don’t feel like we’ve played our best basketball yet, and with our back against the wall, we don’t really have a choice. Our mindset is to just get to the next one, take care of home and make it back here.” Stotts has adjustments to make before Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) as well, after the Nuggets bludgeoned his team in the paint for a 66-44 scoring advantage, while also outrebounding them 62-44. The decision to switch Enes Kanter’s primary defensive assignment from Jokic to Millsap Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), with Al-Farouq Aminu being tasked to try and contain the much bigger Jokic, backfired as Millsap went to work immediately on Kanter. “They just played harder than us,” Kanter said. “I think that was probably … even the coach said, probably this was our worst basketball the last six weeks. Shots didn’t fall in, on defense we weren’t really communicating with each other, we didn’t really trust each other. We’ve just got to learn from this and just go home and take care of home, because right now, that’s the most important game of the year.” The atmosphere Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) at Moda Center promises to be electric. The Blazers have long enjoyed one of the best home atmospheres in the league. But will it serve as the advantage it has in the past when the Nuggets are fresh off two straight huge wins in this series, the first on that floor? “We have two must-wins,” Stotts said. “Somebody was going to have a must-win after tonight and it’s us. So we have two must-wins ahead of us.” That four-overtime loss in Game 3 Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) could have been the emotional breaking point for the Nuggets. It wasn’t. A school shooting Tuesday morning (late Tuesday, PHL time) in a Denver suburb where Malone lives with his wife and daughters rattled the coach and an entire community. That sort of life-altering event could easily have sidetracked Malone and his team. They persevered. The Nuggets were locked in from the start. When it became clear that the Blazers weren’t going to be able to keep up the pace, they kept pushing until the final buzzer. They understand the opportunity staring them in the face; a conference finals date with the two-time reigning champion Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets, who are tied 2-2 heading into Game 5 Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) at Oracle Arena. It’s a wild shift for a team that failed to play its way into the playoffs last year on the final night of the regular season, only to rebound and earn the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoff chase this season. If the atmosphere for Game 4 or even Game 5 seemed overwhelming, Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) promises to be otherworldly for both of these teams that were previously separated by so little. 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 8th, 2019

No rest for the weary: Nuggets, Blazers back at it

By Brian Mahoney, Associated Press Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets could use the kind of break everybody else is getting in the second round of the NBA playoffs. If anybody deserved some time off, it’s the All-Star center who just played 65 minutes in a game. But there’s no rest for the weary now. The Nuggets and Trail Blazers will be back on the court Sunday (Monday, PHL time) for Game 4, surely a little low on fuel after they tied an NBA record by playing four overtimes Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) in Portland’s 140-137 victory. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] “Both teams are exhausted, so it’s the same for them as it is for us,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “We will not use that as an excuse. We haven’t used it all year long and we won’t start using it now.” The conference semifinal round is a series of starts and stops, where it’s difficult for any team to build much momentum because there have been so many gaps between games. Philadelphia and Toronto, who have Game 4 of their series Sunday (Monday, PHL time), play just twice in a seven-day span. In the other Eastern Conference semifinal, Milwaukee and Boston had two days off in between both Games 2 and 3, and Games 3 and 4. When Golden State and Houston played Game 3 of their series Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time), it was their first time back on the court since Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). Then there’s Denver and Portland, who barely had time to catch their breath after the Trail Blazers’ victory in Friday’s marathon gave them a 2-1 lead. They are playing every other day to start their series, and would only have an extra day between games if it’s extended to a seventh game. So while Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid has ample opportunity for treatment on his sore left knee that was such a problem when the postseason began, Portland’s Enes Kanter’s left shoulder has little time to heal before he’d have to get back on the court to resume tussling with Jokic. “As far as the minutes, everybody’s tired. Were built for what’s happening right now. That’s what we had to do to win the game,” Portland’s Damian Lillard said. “Now we’ve got to go do our jobs away from the floor to make sure that at 4 o’clock Sunday we’re ready.” At least Portland wrapped up its first-round series against Oklahoma City quickly, earning some down time after Lillard’s long three-pointer ended the series in five games. But the Nuggets had to go the distance against San Antonio, meaning they had only one day off between ending one series and starting the next. Recover quickly and win Sunday (Monday, PHL time), and they’ve evened the series and regained home-court advantage. But if not, the No. 2 seeds are facing a 3-1 hole, which is a tough spot no matter their energy level. The seven-foot, 250-pound Jokic insists he’ll be ready. “They always talking about I’m not in shape. I’m in really good shape. I don’t know what they’re talking about,” Jokic said. “When I came here I was maybe a little bit chubby, but there’s really no difference in me now. I’m feeling good.” A look at Sunday’s (Monday, PHL time) games: RAPTORS AT 76ERS Philadelphia leads 2-1. Game 4, 3:30 p.m. EDT (3:30am, PHL time) NEED TO KNOW: The 76ers have won the last two games after Toronto’s Game 1 victory. The Raptors have not lost three straight since Nov. 12-16. Kawhi Leonard’s 31.5 points per game rank second to Kevin Durant so far, but Toronto has averaged just 91 per game in the last two games. INJURY WATCH: Toronto is listing forward Pascal Siakam, one of the leading candidates for the Most Improved Player award, as doubtful because of a bruised right calf. Siakam, averaging 22.9 points, was called for a flagrant foul when he stuck his right leg in the path of Embiid during the fourth quarter of Game 3. Embiid’s knee appeared to strike Siakam’s calf. Siakam left the game moments later and did not return. KEEP AN EYE ON: The score at halftime. The 76ers had 64 at the break in Game 3, the fourth time they’ve reached 60 in the first half this postseason, and Leonard noted that was an area the Raptors had to improve. PRESSURE IS ON: Kyle Lowry. All Toronto’s players need to step up more in support of Leonard but the point guard in particular acknowledged he needed to be better after a dismal 2-for-10, seven-point performance in Game 3. NUGGETS AT TRAIL BLAZERS Portland leads, 2-1. Game 4, 7 p.m. EDT (7am, PHL time) NEED TO KNOW: CJ McCollum, who scored 41 points in 60 minutes, along with Lillard (58 minutes) and Kanter (56) are the Blazers who went the longest in Game 3. So there might be an opportunity for Rodney Hood, who scored seven points in the fourth OT, or one of Portland’s big men to get a little more time Sunday (Monday, PHL time). INJURY WATCH: Kanter posted a photo of himself on the training table getting treatment soon after Game 3. He finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds and said afterward he didn’t know if he’d be able to play in Game 4. Whatever it freaking takes #RipCity pic.twitter.com/ok9l0Mf5I8 — Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) May 4, 2019 KEEP AN EYE ON: The energy levels. Game 4 might be one of those that isn’t determined by who plays better, but rather by who has the most left in the tank. PRESSURE IS ON: Jokic’s supporting cast. The Serbian has three triple-doubles and ranks second among all players in both rebounds (12.6) and assists (9.1) per game in his first postseason. But the Nuggets probably can’t count on him staying at that level Sunday after he played the fourth-most minutes in NBA playoff history in Game 3, falling just two short of the record, so other players have to take on some of his usual load. ___ AP Sports Writer Anne Peterson in Portland, Oregon contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 5th, 2019

Blazers aren t worried; Nuggets aren t satisfied

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com DENVER -- Terry Stotts has his schedule locked in through Mother’s Day. Same goes for Damian Lillard. That would take the Portland Trail Blazers’ coach and star point guard through Game 7 of their Western Conference semifinal against the Denver Nuggets, themselves hunkered down and prepared to go the distance in this series, if need be. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] They’ve only played one game; Game 2 is Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) at Pepsi Center. But both sides seem resigned to the fact that the victor won’t get out of this series anytime soon. The Blazers are undaunted after coming up short in Monday’s (Tuesday, PHL time) Game 1, when the Nuggets capitalized on 18 Portland turnovers and turned them into 23 points in a 121-113 win. “It’s a seven-game series,” Stotts said Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). “I think both teams feel like they can play better. I read where coach [Michael] Malone and their players seem to think they can play better. We think we can play better. That’s part of a NBA series." “There’s certainly a lot we could have done better,” Stotts continued. “And when you have a chance to go back and watch it on video, you need that confidence going into the next game. A lot of it was at the defensive end. Offensively, the turnovers were a big concern. Hopefully, we’ll take care of that. But defensively there were a lot of areas we could clean up.” The Blazers had no answer for Nikola Jokic, who played a fantastic all-around game and took advantage of every defender Stotts tried on him. But the Nuggets didn’t fare much better against Lillard, who had his way with them to the tune of a game-high 39 points. “He still had 39 points, so we still have to do a better job and I think we will,” Nuggets guard Gary Harris said. “We just have to continue to stay locked in, continue to come back and get ready and just look at the film and look at the areas we can get better.” So for all the data you want to utilize from their respective first-round series, most simply do not apply this time around. Not only is the style completely different, but also the sense of urgency shifts into high gear, given what’s at stake for the winner. The adjustments, both schematically and emotionally, require work from both sides. “It’s a completely different game and opponent,” Malone said. “From Derrick White and DeMar DeRozan, who are not known as three-point shooters, to guarding CJ [McCollum] and Damian Lillard, who are very efficient three-point shooters. So your mindset has to change there on that alone, the personnel. “But now, I think going into this series, Damian Lillard in the first round, he was averaging 33 pick-and-rollls per game. That’s a crazy number. Your bigs are under constant duress, constant pressure to guard and contain, as are your smalls.” Lillard and McCollum promise to keep the pressure on, like always. Now they have to wipe their own history clean of what worked and didn’t work against the Thunder and focus squarely on the Nuggets. Attacking the perimeter defenders the Nuggets can throw at them might not produce the same results they did against the Thunder. The Nuggets have an assortment of longer and more active defenders they can throw at the guys who power the Blazers’ attack. With only a day between games to make adjustments, mistakes must be kept to a minimum. “Every series is going to be different,” Lillard said, clearly ready to move on from the Blazers’ recent playoff past. “Teams are different. The first round is not the second round. The Thunder are not the Nuggets. So I think your approach … obviously, that’s why you prepare so completely different. But the mentality has to stay the same as far as what we’re trying to get done. Being aggressive, being connected, doing everything together. I think in that way it’s the same. They’re a completely different team. And all that said, we had a chance to win the game … so in the end it’s just one game.” There’s a chance for six more in this series. And both sides seem prepared for as much. 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 1st, 2019

Jokic scores career-high 30, Nuggets beat Magic

em>By Pat Graham, Associated Press /em> DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic scored a career-high 30 points, Emmanuel Mudiay dished out a career-best 13 assists and the Denver Nuggets followed up their 'home' win in London with another at the Pepsi Center, beating the Orlando Magic 125-112 on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). Jokic also grabbed 11 rebounds and Kenneth Faried scored 20 points for the Nuggets, who certainly packed their surging offense with them when they returned home from London. They routed Indiana 140-112 last Thursday (Friday, PHL time) in England and remained on that sort of shooting streak, hitting a season-high 58.4 percent from the floor. They also had 33 assists. Elfrid Payton scored 20 points and had 12 assists as the Magic fell to 1-4 on their current six-game trip. Denver arrived home from London late on Friday (Saturday, PHL time), took Saturday off (Sunday, PHL time) and then went through an intense practice Sunday (Monday, PHL time) designed to shake any sort of lingering jet lag. 'Now, it's mental,' Nuggets coach Michael Malone said before the game. 'Can you push all that tiredness and fatigue and jet lag out of you mind?' They certain did. Up 69-63 early in the third quarter, the Nuggets pulled away with a 16-2 run. The Magic cut into a 22-point deficit, but Faried put the game way with an emphatic dunk with 1:28 remaining. The officials operated with a two-person crew after Nick Buchert was a late scratch for personal reasons. It really didn't seem to be an issue for Tom Washington and Justin VanDuyne, who were never really out of position. strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Magic: /strong> /em> G/F Evan Fournier was out with a bruised right heel. C Nikola Vucevic scored 17 points, and the Magic had seven players in double figures. em> strong>Nuggets: /strong> /em> G Gary Harris suffered a sprained right ankle early in the first quarter and didn't return. X-rays were negative. Jokic had five assists. He entered the game averaging 3.9, which is fourth-best among centers. strong>ALL-STAR ATTENTION? /strong> Although Jokic is averaging 13.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists, Malone doesn't expect his big man to be in All-Star consideration just yet. That has to do with Denver's sub-.500 record and not his play. 'Unless you're winning, I don't think you're going to be in the conversation,' Malone said. 'With that being said, everybody in the NBA knows Nikola and what he brings to the table. He's probably one of the most fun players to watch.' strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Magic: /strong> /em> At New Orleans on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) for the sixth and final game of this trip. em> strong>Nuggets: /strong> /em> At Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). The Nuggets are 1-6 in the second game of a back-to-back this season. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017

Spurs handle Nuggets with ease

em>By Pat Graham, Associated Press /em> DENVER (AP) -- LaMarcus Aldridge scored 28 points, including 11 while sparking a third-quarter spurt, and the San Antonio Spurs beat the Denver Nuggets 127-99 on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). Kawhi Leonard added 24 points, while Tony Parker had 21 and a season-high nine assists for the Spurs, who improved to 17-3 on the road this season. Parker shot 10-of-11 from the field. Aldridge helped San Antonio pull away in the third quarter by knocking down a flurry of mid-range jumpers and hook shots. He has reached double figures in 30 of 33 games this season. Nikola Jokic had 19 points and 11 rebounds for Denver, which dropped its fourth straight. San Antonio entered fresh off a 110-82 win over Toronto on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). It was a game in which the Spurs made the Raptors look 'like a JV team,' Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. 'They have that kind of talent. They have that chemistry. ... I just hope we rise to the challenge.' But the Nuggets couldn't match San Antonio's intensity and had no answer for all of its scoring options. Aldridge hit a 19-footer with 4:55 remaining in the first half, giving the Spurs a lead they didn't relinquish. strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Spurs: /strong> /em>Pau Gasol had 17 points and a team-high nine rebounds. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was succinct in his pregame chat. What scares him about the Nuggets? 'They're the opponent tonight,' he responded. That makes them good? 'Absolutely. Respect every team you play,' he said. em> strong>Nuggets: /strong> /em> F Kenneth Faried missed the game with a sore lower back. F Danilo Gallinari drew a technical for arguing a call in the third quarter. Jokic dished out five assists. No surprise, since he's one of the top passers among centers this season. Denver was out-rebounded by a 41-38 margin. strong>SORRY /strong> Malone apologized to his veteran players for calling them out for a lack of leadership following a loss to Sacramento on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). 'I let my frustrations after that loss get the best of me,' he explained. 'If I have issues with our veterans, I'll address it with our veterans 1-on-1, to try and resolve whatever issues there may be.' He doesn't believe there's any lingering animosity. 'Our locker room is tied together,' Malone said. strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Spurs: /strong> /em> Host the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). em> strong>Nuggets: /strong> /em> At the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 2017

Cousins and Collison team up as Kings take down Nuggets

DENVER (AP) — DeMarcus Cousins scored 31 points, Darren Collison had 26 points and seven assists, and the Sacramento Kings beat the Denver Nuggets 120-113 on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). Sacramento led most of the way to stop a two-game skid and win for the fifth time in seven games. The Kings used a 15-0 run in the second quarter to take a 50-36 lead. Denver went nearly seven minutes without a field goal and missed 10 shots before Jusuf Nurkic hit a layup with 2:46 left before halftime. Denver got within three in the fourth quarter and had chances to trim it to one or tie, but Sacramento kept extending the lead with Cousins on the bench. The lead was five when he returned, and he helped the Kings push it to 11 with 2:22 left with assists on a three-pointer by Arron Afflalo and a layup by Garrett Temple. Danilo Gallinari led Denver with 24 points and Nikola Jokic had 18. He and fellow big man Nurkic, who scored 16 off the bench, had trouble containing Cousins all night. strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Kings: /strong> /em>G Ty Lawson didn't face his old team due to a sinus fracture sustained in Saturday's (Sunday, PHL time) loss to Memphis. He was close to playing but was held out after experiencing blurred vision in warmups. F Rudy Gay missed his third straight game with a right hip flexor strain. em> strong>Nuggets: /strong> /em> F Kenneth Faried missed his second consecutive game with a back injury. Denver coach Michael Malone said Faried was getting constant treatment for the injury, which flared up after Friday's loss to Philadelphia. strong>COUSINS FAN CLUB /strong> Cousins has been criticized for his emotional outbursts, but Malone is a big fan of the All-Star center, calling him one of the best in the NBA at his position. 'He's at the top. You tell me something he can't do,' Malone said. 'I don't say that just because I coached him for a year and a half and I have a relationship with him. His talent is immense. He's an emotional player, he's passionate and he's a competitor. 'We've all seen times when he's kind of lost his emotions and that's never good for him or his team. When I coached him, teams would make a concerted effort to start the game to get under his skin. Portland did that and he went for 55 against them, so you have to be careful what you wish for.' strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Kings: /strong> /em>Host the Miami Heat on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). em> strong>Nuggets: /strong> /em>Host the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 4th, 2017

76ers survive late flurry to beat Nuggets

DENVER (AP) — The Philadelphia 76ers came up big in the fourth quarter a night after collapsing in the final 12 minutes. Ersan Ilyasova had a career-high 23 points and 13 rebounds and the 76ers survived a flurry in the final seconds to beat the Denver Nuggets 124-122 on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). 'I feel like the trip has been rewarded with a win and us having the ability to finally close out a game and finish off the fourth period,' Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. Joel Embiid returned after sitting out Thursday's (Friday, PHL time) loss in Utah to score 23 points and hit key free throws down the stretch. The Sixers ended their four-game trip with just their third win away from home despite having just nine available players. They had a chance to win the other three games on this trip but consistently faltered in the fourth quarter. The Jazz outscored them 30-9 to end Thursday's game, and the Sixers went over the tape of the period Friday morning. The attention to detail paid off. 'Tonight, that was the emphasis at the end of the third quarter, that's what everybody was talking about,' Embiid said. 'We focused, we locked in and got the win.' Nikola Jokic had a game-high 25 points for the Nuggets, and Emmanuel Mudiay scored 22. Denver had won four of its last five home games but a bad start led to another defeat. 'I thought our focus at shootaround [Friday, Saturday PHL time] was not great,' coach Michael Malone said. 'And I think that when you win a few games you start to feel pretty good about yourself and you forget why you have been winning games.' The Nuggets had a chance to tie it during a frantic ending. After Embiid hit two free throws to put the Sixers up four, Jokic was fouled on a three-point attempt. Jokic made the first two free throws and intentionally missed the third. Denver's Gary Harris grabbed the rebound but missed a short bank shot, and Kenneth Faried's tip-in try was off as time expired. 'Jokic did a great job missing, I got a shot up and we had a chance for a tip-in, but it just didn't go our way,' Harris said. The Nuggets pulled within 114-113 with 1:43 left, but Philadelphia's T.J. McConnell hit his third three-pointer of the night — matching his total makes for the season. He finished with 17 points and eight assists. Four straight foul shots by Denver tied it, but Embiid split a pair of free throws to put Philadelphia ahead by one. He then stripped Jokic on the other end as the center went up for a go-ahead layup and drained two more free throws to put the Sixers ahead 120-117 with 15.9 seconds left. strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Sixers: /strong> /em> Sergio Rodriguez sprained his left ankle in the loss at Utah on Thursday (Friday, PHL time) and did not play Friday. Richaun Holmes was not with the team and is in concussion protocol. G Gerald Henderson missed his second straight game with left hip soreness. em> strong>Nuggets: /strong> /em> Wilson Chandler (right neck sprain/strain) and Jamal Murray (groin soreness) both played. Jokic has scored in double figures in 12 of his last 14 games. strong>CENTER OF ATTENTION /strong> Nuggets big man Jusuf Nurkic played 18:33 after not playing in four straight games and averaging just 6:16 in three other games. Nurkic expressed his disappointment after practice Thursday (Friday, PHL time), telling The Denver Post, 'I'm not here to sit on the bench; I'm here to play basketball.' Malone said before Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) game he had no problem with Nurkic's sentiments. 'Nurk's been great,' Malone said. 'I understand guys want to be out there. They're competitive. You want them to be competitive. Just make sure you're being a good teammate.' strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Sixers: /strong> /em> Host Minnesota on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). em> strong>Nuggets: /strong> /em>At the Golden State Warriors on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 31st, 2016