Connect with us

Hoops

Mercado tagged as ‘missing in action’

Avatar

Published

on

Sol Mercado has yet to report for practice after being traded by NorthPort to Phoenix in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

Fuel Masters’ head coach Louie Alas said they have been looking for the 35-year-old guard, whom they acquired after shipping LA Revilla and Rey Guevarra to the Batang Pier.

But until now, the seasoned playmaker has yet to report for practice.

“I still have no idea on what Sol’s future will be because the management will get to decide on his future with the team,” Alas said. “And no, he has yet to show up in practice.”

Despite a surplus of guards in the team, Alas still took a gamble on Mercado and traded for him.

Alex Mallari, RR Garcia, RJ Jazul, Brian Heruela and Mike Gamboa are the guards lined up for the Fuel Masters for next season.

After four seasons with Barangay Ginebra, Mercado was dealt to NorthPort as part of the trade that saw Stanley Pringle going to the Gin Kings.

He played briefly with Batang Pier last season as he was shipped to Phoenix, his seventh team in 12 seasons in the Philippine Basketball Association.

But Alas said Mercado, a three-time champion, has yet to sign a new contract with them and it’s up to the management if they will keep the services of the veteran playmaker.

Mercado averaged 4.0 points and 1.6 rebounds for the Batang Pier in the Governors’ Cup before an ankle sprain shut him down in the semifinal series against Barangay Ginebra. Phoenix has been busy tweaking its roster as it also added Jake Pascual from Alaska in exchange for this year’s second-round pick. The Fuel Masters also picked up Heruela from Blackwater for Ron Dennison.

Advertisement
Click to comment

Hoops

Celtics strike back, cut East Finals deficit to 2-1

Agence France-Presse

Published

on

Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics dunks the ball against the Miami Heat during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. (AFP)

The Boston Celtics hit back on Saturday, leading wire-to-wire in a 117-106 victory over the Miami Heat that cut the gap in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals to 2-1.

Jaylen Brown scored 26 points and Jayson Tatum added 25 points and 14 rebounds for the Celtics, who avoided falling into an 0-3 hole from which no NBA team has rallied to win a best-of-seven playoff series.

After their 17-point lead slipped away in a Game 2 loss on Thursday — the second straight game they surrendered a double-digit lead in defeat — Celtics players could be heard exchanging heated words in their locker room.

But they were all on the same page in Game 3, displaying a sense of purpose in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida, and maintaining their poise as the Heat narrowed a 20-point fourth-quarter deficit to five with less than a minute to play.

Marcus Smart, a perfect 10-for-10 from the foul line, produced a string of clutch free throws and the Celtics hung on for the win.

“Down 0-2 in the series, we played some games we thought we should have played better,” Brown said. “We wanted to make it an emphasis to come out tonight and play 48 minutes, and we did.”

Center Bam Adebayo led the Heat with 27 points, 16 rebounds and three steals. Rookie Tyler Herro scored 22 points for Miami and star forward Jimmy Butler scored 17.

But Boston outscored Miami 60-36 in the paint and held the Heat to 38.8 percent shooting from the floor.

“They came out, Boston did, with great force in this game,” heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You do have to credit them for that. “They sustained it for the better majority of the game. We were on our heels most of the game.”

The Celtics were buoyed by the return from injury of playmaker Gordon Hayward, who played 30 minutes off the bench and scored six points with five rebounds and four assists in his first game in more than four weeks.

“The first five minutes I was gassed,” admitted Hayward, adding that he was feeling it in the right ankle he sprained in game one of the Heat’s first-round series against Philadelphia.

Hayward left the bubble to rehabilitate the injury, returning and going through quarantine before he could return to the court.

Boston led 31-22 at the end of the first quarter, and were up by 12 early in the second before the Heat surged back.

Miami, led by Herro’s 16 points in the period, twice cut the deficit to three points before the Celtics reasserted themselves to take a 62-50 lead into halftime.

Continue Reading

Hoops

Lakers send Nuggets crashing

Agence France-Presse

Published

on

ANTHONY Davis fires 37 points to power the Los Angeles Lakers past the Denver Nuggets. NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE VIA GETTY IMAGES/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MIAMI (AFP) — Anthony Davis scored 37 points and pulled down 10 rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers dominated the Denver Nuggets, 126-114, in Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference finals.

LeBron James added 15 points with 12 assists and six rebounds for the Lakers, who shot out of the gate after dropping their opener in each of their previous two playoff series in the NBA’s coronavirus quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.

After a close first quarter ended with the Nuggets up by two, the Lakers seized control in the second quarter, outscoring Denver, 34-21, to take a 70-59 lead into halftime.

Lakers reserve Alex Caruso converted a three-point play to spark a 17-1 scoring run, the Nuggets going without a basket for more than five minutes to start the second quarter.

“It took a quarter for us to kind of figure it out,” James said.

“I’m not saying we fully figured them out because it’s too early in the series to say that.”

“But we started to get a better feel, just started to get in a better rhythm defensively and we started to get some stops in that second quarter and we were able to build that lead up going into halftime.”

Well aware that the Nuggets had proved their resilience with some big second-half comebacks against the Los Angeles Clippers in the previous round, the Lakers kept the pressure on after the break.

Denver trimmed the deficit to nine points midway through the third quarter.

But their efforts were hampered with star Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Paul Millsap all in early foul trouble, and that was the closest they would get in the second half.

Jokic and Murray both scored 21 points to pace the Nuggets. Michael Porter added 14 off the bench.

But Denver coach Mike Malone said the Nuggets did not do enough on defense.

“Even in that first quarter we didn’t guard anybody,” said Malone, whose team shot better than 63 percent from the field in an opening period punctuated by Murray’s three-pointer as time expired.

“Our offense was able to score the ball but there was little defense.”

But Malone said the Nuggets would have to figure out how to get stops without fouling, noting that in the Lakers’ massive second quarter they shot just 42.9 percent from the floor but went to the free-throw line 24 times.

“Twenty four times in one quarter, and we were called for 16 personal fouls in that quarter,” Malone said.

“On top of that seven turnovers, again fueling their break.”

Murray said the Nuggets aren’t surprised to see foul calls to go the Lakers’ way.

“We know how it’s going to be,” he said.

“We know we’re the younger team. We’re just going to play through it.”

“We’re going to find a way and we’re not going to go away so easy.”

Davis had 33 points by the end of the third quarter, his hook shot with 36.4 seconds left in the third pushing the Lakers’ lead to 23 points.

The Lakers, back in the conference finals for the first time since 2010 — when they won their most recent NBA title — remained well aware that they had plenty of work to do against a Nuggets team that erased 1-3 deficits in each of their previous two series.

“We haven’t done anything special,” Davis said.

“We basically took care of home court. We have three more to go.”

Continue Reading

Hoops

PBA restart costs P65M

Bea Micaller

Published

on

PBA chairman Ricky Vargas bares that the league would be spending 'close to P65 million' for the bubble setup in Clark.

The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) would be spending P65 million to stage the restart of its 45th season in a bubble setup at the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga.

PBA chairman Ricky Vargas said bulk of the amount would cover the accommodation and meal expenses of 350 personnel, including players, coaches, officials, media and league staff who would enter the bubble.

“It’s close to P65 million,” Vargas told former PBA commissioner Noli Eala in a radio interview.

“The big chunk of the budget will be going to the accommodation and food expenses.”

Vargas said the amount is quite conservative.

In fact, they got good discount on the rental of the Angeles University Foundation gymnasium as well as free coronavirus testing courtesy of Clark City.

“We got a lot of discounts on the venue and, thanks to Clark City, because now even the testing is free.”

Over 20 venues, including the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai, made a pitch to host the PBA resumption.

But Clark City stood out after presenting solid plan on the safety of the stakeholders, medical facilities, costing, facilities for the well being of players and connectivity.

He said they were fortunate because teams would not be shelling out a single centavo for the PBA bubble, knowing that the pandemic also took a toll on their respective budgets.

Continue Reading

Hoops

FIBA to adopt bubble format

Bea Micaller

Published

on

Gilas Pilipinas would be seeing action inside a bubble when the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifying tournament resumes in November and February.

The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) made the announcement, saying that with the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease, the most logical way to restart the qualifiers is by holding it in isolated venues instead of the usual home-and-away format.

Gilas is in Group A with South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia.

They fashion a 1-0 card following a 100-70 win over the Indonesians on 20 February — few weeks before the tournament was halted due to the outbreak of the deadly pulmonary disease.

The Nationals are set to see action on the road against South Korea on 27 November and against Thailand on 30 November before hosting Indonesia on 18 February and South Korea on 21 February next year.

“Each bubble will consist four or eight teams,” FIBA said in a statement.

“The hosts will be decided at the regional level and will be announced in due course.”

But putting the national dribblers inside a bubble would be easier said than done.

First, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has yet to issue the green light for the restart of amateur sports — including FIBA tournaments.

The only amateur sports that are seeking IATF permission are those where Filipinos have bright chances of clinching Olympic berths like boxing, taekwondo, fencing, athletics, swimming, golf, gymnastics and judo.

With that, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) has to reach out to the IATF to explain the importance of the prestigious qualifiers.

Another roadblock is the schedule of the Philippine Basketball Association.

The country’s domestic league would also be using a bubble setup and is set to start on 9 October until mid-December.

Should the qualifiers push through in November, PBA players in the pool would not be seeing action.

Gilas program director Tab Baldwin said the news took them by surprise.

“We are yet to meet and discuss the pathway program so I don’t really have an update of which players and what is going to look like. It’s still a very fresh news,” Baldwin said, adding that they are still waiting for further updates from FIBA.

“Until everybody makes their decision and FIBA has also yet to release the specific dates, we are just waiting and obviously we need to put up contingency plan on how the team will look like.”

“We will certainly be meeting very soon.”

Continue Reading

Hoops

Giannis wins MVP, joins elite group

Agence France-Presse

Published

on

MIAMI (AFP) — Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said he would treasure his second straight NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) award and redouble his efforts to capture a league crown.

The 25-year-old from Greece became just the third player in history to earn MVP and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the same season after Michael Jordan in 1988 and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994.

“Michael Jordan, one of the best players who had ever done it, if not the best,” Antetokounmpo said, speaking from a rooftop in Athens during the televised announcement of the award.

“Hakeem, a guy that I look up to, he came from where I’m from, Nigeria, where I have roots.”

“Just being in the same sentence with them, that means a lot to me.”

The player dubbed the “Greek Freak” became the 12th player to win back-to-back MVP, joining Jordan, Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Moses Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.

But, once again, the MVP award carries a bittersweet tinge after the top-seeded Bucks fell in five games to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals in the quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.

Last year, Antetokounmpo won the MVP only for eventual champion Toronto to oust the Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals.

“Obviously, I would love to be still in the bubble playing games, fighting,” Antetokounmpo said.

“But at the end of the day I won the award. I’m extremely blessed.”

“It’s been a long journey,” Antetokounmpo added.

“The people that know me, the people that know my story, you can never take these moments for granted.”

Antetokounmpo won in a landslide, receiving 85 first-place votes from a global panel of sports reporters and broadcasters, the league announced on Friday.

Los Angeles Lakers star James received 16 first-place votes and the third finalist, James Harden of the Houston Rockets, did not receive any first-place votes.

Continue Reading

Hoops

Celtics feel the Heat

Agence France-Presse

Published

on

JIMMY Butler provides leadership down the stretch for the Miami Heat. GARRETT ELLWOOD/NBAE VIA GETTY IMAGES/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MIAMI (AFP) — The Miami Heat turned it up in the second half, rallying again for a 106-101 victory over the Boston Celtics and a 2-0 lead in the NBA Eastern Conference finals.

Trailing by 17 in the second quarter and down 60-47 at halftime, Miami thrashed the Celtics, 37-17, in the third quarter and held on for the victory.

Bam Adebayo scored 15 of his 21 points in the Heat’s blistering third quarter.

The Celtics, who let a big lead slip in a 117-114 Game 1 overtime defeat on Tuesday, regained the lead in the fourth quarter and were up, 94-89, with 4:25 left to play.

But the Heat chipped away with a hook shot from Adebayo and a steal and dunk by Jimmy Butler.

Goran Dragic followed up two free throws with a three-pointer over Boston big man Daniel Theis that put the Heat ahead, 100-95, with 1:42 remaining and Miami powered to the finish line.

“We came here to these playoffs trying to win a championship,” Adebayo said.

“We keep stacking these wins and hopefully we get to that point.”

“Right now, 2-0, we’ve got to keep stacking those wins.”

Dragic finished with 25 points, and Duncan Robinson added 18 points, all on three-pointers.

Adebayo added 10 rebounds and four assists, Jimmy Butler had 14 points, four rebounds, three assists and four steals.

“We like to make it hard for ourselves,” Butler said of the Miami “comeback kids.”

In fact, the Heat got off to a brisk start making five of their first six three-point attempts.

After a close first quarter the Celtics surged ahead in the second period, only for the Heat to make the needed adjustments at halftime.

“You get to the conference finals, it’s not all about you,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

“Boston had a lot to say about how that first half was going. That was them putting us on our heels.”

Kemba Walker broke out of his scoring slump with 23 points for the Celtics. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum scored 21 apiece.

But Brown missed a three-pointer that would have tied it with 15 seconds to play and 20 Celtics turnovers led to 26 Miami points.

“They out-played us,” Walker said of the Heat’s third-quarter surge.

“It’s really unacceptable on our behalf. We didn’t continue to do the things that we did to get us that lead. I think we got kind of comfortable and those guys took advantage of it.

“They played hard — a lot harder than us. We fought our way back, but just too many mistakes.”

The Heat will try to take a stranglehold on the best-of-seven series in game three on Saturday in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando.

The Celtics will go into that one knowing that no NBA team has rallied from an 0-3 deficit to win a series and that might have contributed to tension in the locker room after the defeat.

“Guys were emotional after a hard game, hard loss,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of the shouting that could be heard from Boston’s locker room post-game.

Walker wouldn’t be drawn on reports that Marcus Smart let fly before storming out.

“It was nothing,” Walker insisted, adding when pressed, “we’ll be fine.”

Continue Reading

Hoops

Restart spells PBA survival

Bea Micaller

Published

on

The looming resumption of its 45th season underscores the Philippine Basketball Association’s (PBA) ability to weather even the strongest storm.

Coaches Yeng Guiao of NLEX, Nash Racela of Blackwater and John Cardel of Terra Firma welcomed reports that the league would be unwrapping the resumption of its Philippine Cup in a bubble setup in Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga on 9 October.

Although the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has yet to formally issue the green light, the coaches believe that what PBA commissioner Willie Marcial and the board of commissioners did is a step in a right direction.

“Nothing but excitement on our part because we are ready to do whatever it takes to resume the season,” said Guiao, who used to serve as governor of Pampanga.

“Everyone in the PBA is working hard to pull off this bubble and NLEX will give its full cooperation for this to be successful just like in the NBA (National Basketball Association).”

Last Thursday, the PBA formally announced the blueprint for the resumption of the season.

Games would be held at the Angeles University Foundation gym while delegates would be housed at nearby Quest Hotel inside the Clark Freeport Zone.

The league would also adopt a tournament format of single-round eliminations with the top four getting twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals. The semifinals would be a best-of-five series while the finals would be a best-of-seven showdown.

Cardel said the staging of the bubble would go down as one of the historic moment in PBA history.

“We are so happy with the news and the whole team is excited to be part of a memorable season,” he said.

Racela, on the other hand, said they trust that the league would successfully pull off the bubble similar to what other countries did in their fights against the pandemic.

After all, the resumption of the season would give a semblance of normalcy to the Filipinos and hope that the country could soon put this pandemic behind.

Continue Reading

Hoops

Heat burn Celtics again for 2-0 NBA East Finals series lead

Agence France-Presse

Published

on

Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat drives to the basket during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics. (AFP)

The Miami Heat turned it up in the second half, rallying again for a 106-101 victory over the Boston Celtics and a 2-0 lead in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.

Trailing by 17 in the second quarter and down 60-47 at halftime, Miami thrashed the Celtics 37-17 in the third quarter and held on for the victory Thursday.

Bam Adebayo scored 15 of his 21 points in the Heat’s blistering third quarter.

The Celtics, who let a big lead slip in a 117-114 Game 1 overtime defeat on Tuesday, regained the lead in the fourth quarter and were up 94-89 with 4:25 left to play.

But the Heat chipped away with a  hook shot from Adebayo and a steal and dunk by Jimmy Butler.

Goran Dragic followed up two free throws with a three-pointer over Boston big man Daniel Theis that put the Heat ahead 100-95 with 1:42 remaining and Miami powered to the finish line.

Dragic finished with 25 points, and Duncan Robinson added 18, all on three-pointers.

Adebayo added 10 rebounds and four assists, Jimmy Butler had 14 points, four rebounds, three assists and four steals.

“We like to make it hard for ourselves,” Butler said of the Miami “comeback kids.”

In fact, the Heat got off to a brisk start making five of their first six three-point attempts.

After a close first quarter the Celtics surged ahead in the second period, only for the Heat to make the needed adjustments at halftime.

“You get to the conference finals, it’s not all about you,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Boston had a lot to say about how that first half was going. That was them putting us on our heels.”

Kemba Walker broke out of his scoring slump with 23 points for the Celtics. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum scored 21 apiece.

But Brown missed a three-pointer that would have tied it with 15.1 seconds to play and 20 Celtics turnovers led to 26 Miami points.

The Heat will try to take a stranglehold on the best-of-seven series in game three on Saturday in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando.

The Celtics will go into that one knowing that no NBA team has rallied from an 0-3 deficit to win a series.

Continue Reading

Hoops

New jewel in LeBron crown

TDT

Published

on

By

LEBRON James leads the All-NBA Team with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, Luka Doncic and James Harden. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida — LeBron James now stands alone in All-NBA recognition history, getting there unanimously.

James was revealed as an All-NBA player for a record 16th time, breaking the mark he shared with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan.

He was a first-team pick on all 100 ballots, joining Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo as the only unanimous first-team selections this season.

Joining them on the first team were Houston Rockets guard James Harden, Lakers forward Anthony Davis and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, who got the nod in just his second season in the NBA — becoming the first player to get there in either his first or second season since Duncan did for San Antonio.

Duncan was first-team in each of his first eight NBA seasons, starting in 1997-98 and going through 2004-05.

The 21-year-old Doncic is the sixth player to make All-NBA at that age or younger, joining Kevin Durant, James, Duncan, Rick Barry and Max Zaslofsky.

James is a first-team pick for the 13th time in his career, extending his record there. Bryant and Karl Malone were 11-time first-teamers. Antetokounmpo, the reigning Most Valuable Player and the frontrunner to win the award again this season, was picked unanimously for the second consecutive year.

Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, Denver center Nikola Jokic, Portland guard Damian Lillard, Oklahoma City guard Chris Paul and Toronto forward Pascal Siakam were on the second team.

The third-team picks were Boston forward Jayson Tatum, Miami forward Jimmy Butler, Utah center Rudy Gobert, Philadelphia guard Ben Simmons and Houston guard Russell Westbrook.

Paul and Westbrook are now nine-time All-NBA players, Harden a six-time choice, Lillard is a five-timer and Antetokounmpo, Leonard and Davis are four-time selections.

Butler and Gobert are three-time selections, Jokic a two-time choice and Siakam, Tatum and Simmons all joined Doncic as being on the team for the first time.

Harden and Doncic appeared on all 100 ballots — though only James and Antetokounmpo were unanimous as first-team choices on every ballot. Davis and Jokic were on 99 ballots, and Leonard appeared on 98.

The voting was conducted based on regular-season games played through 11 March, and voters had to choose two guards, two forwards and one center for each team.

Milwaukee forward Khris Middleton did not make All-NBA even though he appeared on more ballots (60) than Simmons (43) and Westbrook (38); they made the team as guards. Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid got 39 votes and did not make the team either, after finishing fourth among centers.

Continue Reading