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You have to make the right reads and trust your teammates and that’s what I tried to do all night long.

Agence France-Presse

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Russell Westbrook lifts off for the Houston Rockets. / Mike Ehrmann /Agence France-Presse

MIAMI (AFP) — Russell Westbrook scored 31 points and James Harden added 24 Sunday to rally the Houston Rockets over National Basketball Association overall leader Milwaukee 120-116 despite a big night for Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Bucks led 112-104 after Khris Middleton’s three-pointer with 3:14 to play, but Houston closed the game with a 16-4 run.

“It’s amazing,” Westbrook said. “We fought through. Adversity showed up and we showed off. All the guys in our locker room showed up to play for 48 minutes.”

The Rockets went 21-of-61 from three-point range, matching an NBA record for the most three-point attempts by a club in a non-overtime game, with Danuel House hitting four and Harden among five other players who landed three from outside the arc.

“You have to make the right reads and trust your teammates and that’s what I tried to do all night long,” Westbrook said.

The Rockets also rallied from seven points down in the final minute to defeat Dallas on Friday.

Westbrook, on a career-best run of 36 consecutive games with 20 or more points, hit 10-of-21 from the floor, 1-of-3 from beyond the arc, and 10-of-12 free throws. Harden had six steals, seven rebounds and seven assists.

Greek big man Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 36 points, 18 rebounds and eight assists. Middleton had 27 points and 12 rebounds and Brook Lopez added 23 points and 12 rebounds.

“We’ve got to keep executing at the end of close games,” Antetokounmpo said. “We weren’t able to do that. We’ve got to find the open man and hit more shots.”

The Rockets improved to 42-24, level with Utah for fourth in the Western Conference and only one game behind Denver, while the Bucks fell to 54-13, still the best record in the NBA and six games better than Toronto to top the Eastern Conference.

In the other feature interconference game, Jayson Tatum scored 34 points and Jaylen Brown added 30 to spark the Boston Celtics over Portland 128-124.

Gordon Hayward added 22 points for the Celtics, including two crucial free throws with three seconds to play to help seal a Boston win after squandering a 24-point advantage.

Boston opened the game by making 9-of-12 shots, five of them for three points, for a 26-15 lead and stretched their advantage from there before the Trail Blazers rallied.

Portland’s Damian Lillard had 30 points and 16 assists while Jusuf Nurkic added 30 points and nine rebounds for the Trail Blazers.

The San Antonio Spurs, powered by 21 points and 10 rebounds from Dejounte Murray, edged eighth-place Memphis in a Western Conference game.

DeMar DeRozan completed a 108-106 win by sinking two free throws with one second remaining, the last of his 14 points. Grizzlies rookie star Ja Morant had 25 points and nine assists in a losing cause.

The Memphis loss ensured a playoff spot for the Dallas Mavericks even before they took the court for a 117-115 loss to the Phoenix Suns. It will be the first Dallas post-season appearance since 2016.

Phoenix’s Devin Booker scored 30 points and Ricky Rubio added 20, both hitting key free throws in the final minutes to preserve the Suns’ lead.

Luka Doncic led Dallas with 40 points while Kristaps Porzingis added 30 for the Mavericks.

Caris LeVert scored 34 points, 14 of them in the last seven minutes, to spark the Brooklyn Nets over Washington 118-110.

Jarrett Allen had 22 points and 15 rebounds and Joe Harris scored a season-high 27 points for Brooklyn, which moved seven games ahead of the ninth-place Washington in the Eastern Conference.

The Wizards must be within four games of eighth to force a play-in series and they have only six games remaining.

Orlando stayed half a game ahead of Brooklyn by routing Sacramento 132-116 behind 25 points from Terrence Ross plus 23 points and 11 rebounds from Nikola Vucevic.

The Magic’s victory joy was dampened by a third-quarter left leg injury to Jonathan Isaac, who had just worked his way back from a left knee injury. He exited the court in a wheelchair.

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Nuggets fried

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LEBRON James’ (right) airtight defense on Jamal Murray lifts the Los Angeles Lakers to a 114-108 win over the Denver Nuggets. ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE VIA GETTY IMAGES/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MIAMI (AFP) — Anthony Davis and LeBron James combined for 60 points as the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers seized control of their Western Conference finals series with a 114-108 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

James finished with 26 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists and Davis had 34 points as Lakers held on to beat the Nuggets and take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.

Game 5 is Saturday in Orlando. The Lakers have wrapped up both their previous series in five games.

Canadian forward Jamal Murray led the Nuggets with 32 points and eight assists while Jerami Grant finished with 17 for Denver.

Serbia’s Nikola Jokic was held in check most of the game and finished with a disappointing 16 points. He missed all four field goal attempts in the fourth.

James took it upon himself to guard Murray with the game on the line.

“He’s is one of the hottest guys in the bubble,” said James.

“He’s very shifty to guard. I just use my length and athleticism, high hand him and meet him at the basket.”

Denver has dug another big hole in these playoffs and if they are going to advance to the NBA finals they will have to come back from a 3-1 deficit for the third straight series.

Denver lost Game 4 in each of its first two series against Utah and the Los Angeles Clippers before making a pair of historic comebacks.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 13 points and Rajon Rondo tallied 11 points for the Lakers, who bounced back from a loss in Game 3 in which they rebounded poorly by outscoring the Nuggets, 25-6, in second-chance points.

“We knew coming in that we didn’t rebound at all (in Game 3) and we just tried to change that,” James said.

The Lakers took the lead 10-9 on a 17-foot basket by Davis with 8:16 left in the first quarter and headed the close contest the rest of the way.

Davis and James got the Lakers off to a strong start by combining for 14 points in the first quarter as the Lakers led by seven, 37-30, heading into the second.

James got the Lakers’ final points of the first quarter with a dunk after Rondo stole the ball and ran all the way up the court before making a nifty back pass to James who slammed it home.

Lakers guard Rondo finished with seven assists to pass Scottie Pippen for eighth place on the all-time playoff list. He had eight assists in Game 3 to surpass Kobe Bryant on the list.

James, Davis and Dwight Howard were the only Lakers to have multiple baskets in the first quarter. Davis rolled his ankle in the second half but said afterwards it was fine.

Lakers stretched their lead to 12 points in the second quarter but the Nuggets, led by Murray, came storming back. They outscored the Lakers, 25-23, in the second to cut the deficit to just five at the half, 60-55.

Murray led the Nuggets in the first half, scoring 16 points on seven of nine shooting from the floor.

Lakers missed 10 of their last 12 shots before the half but they got some unexpected scoring from 34-year-old journeyman Howard who finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, almost all of them coming in the first half.

Murray was outstanding, making several falling, spinning and even one leaping left-handed basket. But on the rare occasion he did miss, Murray didn’t get a lot of support from his rebounders.

He made one of the most dynamic layups of the postseason when he went one-on-one with James in the first half and reached up while falling and — with a flick of the wrist — spun the ball off the backboard.

He made another basket halfway through the third to surpass 20 points in the game, making it the seventh straight game he has reached at least 20 points.

The Nuggets went on an 11-4 run at the end of the third to close the gap to 87-84.

But the Lakers started the fourth by going on a 6-0 run of their own.

The Nuggets managed to keep the score close until the end, but they missed their last five shots of the game as the Lakers played better down the stretch.

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No popping of PBA bubble

Bea Micaller

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Now that the government approval had been formally secured, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) vowed to do its best to observe all health and safety protocols to make sure that the resumption of its aborted season would be trouble-free.

PBA chairman Ricky Vargas said members of all 12 teams were all committed to follow the health and safety protocols as they head into the PBA bubble at the Quest Hotel inside the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga.

After a long break due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the PBA is finally back.

With no less than Vince Dizon, the deputy implementer of the national COVID-19 task force as its chief backer, the league secured the a provisional authority from the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to restart its season on 11 October.

Although there is a possibility that the government might withdraw its approval in case somebody tests positive, Vargas and PBA commissioner Willie Marcial assured that they wouldn’t let their bubble pop.

“Just like what the commissioner said, if we are going to have a bubble and we are not going to give everything we can for this, then we might as well call it off,” Vargas, the governor of TNT KaTropa, said.

“They are committed to the bubble. The players are all committed.”

Vargas said Dizon, also the president of the Bases Conversion Development Authority, would cover the weekly testing on some 350 delegates that include players, coaches, team managers, PBA staff and media.

Transcription polymerase chain reaction tests were already done last 23 and 24 September for those who would enter the bubble on 29 and 29 September.

Players who were tested, however, have to undergo 24-hour quarantine before getting the green light to join scrimmages.

Vargas said they would use a application called “StaySafe PH” for monitoring and contact-tracing.

“Stay Safe is a monitoring system that will do contact-tracing and will allow us to know where the players are and if there’s a proper distancing,” Vargas said.

Dizon clarified that all the safety nets are already in place, including the provision that players must wear masks even while they are sitting on the bench.

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Lakers bury Nuggets 3-1 to close in on NBA Finals

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LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots the ball against the Denver Nuggets during the match in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. (AFP)

Anthony Davis posted 34 points while LeBron James added 26 points as the Los Angeles Lakers held off the gritty Denver Nuggets, 114-108, on Friday (Manila time) in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.

The Lakers buried the Nuggets 3-1 in the series to close in to a trip back to the NBA Finals since winning it all in 2010 – the last time the storied franchise held the crown behind Kobe Bryant.

Game 5 is on Sunday (Manila time).

James grabbed nine rebounds and dished out eight assists for the Lakers. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got 13 points, Dwight Howard pulled down 11 boards and had 12 points for Los Angeles.

Paul Millsap’s pair of free throws cut Denver’s deficit to 112-108 with 27 seconds remaining in the game. Davis iced the game, sinking both his free throws with 21.4 left as Jamal Murray missed his three-point attempt in the Nuggets’ last possession.

Murray finished with 32 points for the Nuggets, who found themselves in a very familiar situation after being pushed on the brink by Utah and the LA Clippers only to pull off a couple of historic series comebacks.

Murray, who shot 12-of-20 from the field, added eight assists, Jerami Grant got 17 while Nikola Jokic struggled with five fouls to finish with 16 points and seven rebounds.

James took it upon himself to guard Murray with the game on the line.

“He’s is one of the hottest guys in the bubble,” said James. “He’s very shifty to guard. I just use my length and athleticism, high hand him and meet him at the basket.”

Denver has dug another big hole in these playoffs and if they are going to advance to the NBA finals they will have to come back from a 3-1 deficit for the third straight series.

Denver lost game four in each of their first two series against Utah and the Angeles Clippers.

Rajon Rondo tallied 11 points for the Lakers, who bounced back from a loss in game three in which they rebounded poorly by outscoring the Nuggets 25-6 in second-chance points on Thursday.

“We knew coming in that we didn’t rebound at all (in game three) and we just tried to change that,” said James.

The Lakers took the lead 10-9 on a 17-foot basket by Davis with 8:16 left in the first quarter and headed the close contest the rest of the way.

Davis and James got the Lakers off to a strong start by combining for 14 points in the first quarter as the Lakers led by seven, 37-30, heading into the second.

James got the Lakers’ final points of the first quarter with a dunk after Rondo stole the ball and ran all the way up the court before making a nifty back pass to James who slammed it home.

Lakers guard Rondo finished with seven assists to pass Scottie Pippen for eighth place on the all-time playoff list. He had eight assists in Game 3 to surpass Kobe Bryant on the list.

James, Davis and Howard were the only Lakers to have multiple baskets in the first quarter. Davis rolled his ankle in the second half but said afterwards it was fine.

Lakers stretched their lead to 12 points in the second quarter but the Nuggets, led by Murray, came storming back. They outscored the Lakers 25-23 in the second to cut the deficit to just five at the half, 60-55.

Murray led the Nuggets in the first half, scoring 16 points on seven of nine shooting from the floor.

Lakers missed 10 of their last 12 shots before the half but they got some unexpected scoring from 34-year-old journeyman Howard who finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, almost all of them coming in the first half.

Murray was outstanding making several falling, spinning and even one leaping left-handed basket. But on the rare occasion he did miss, Murray didn’t get a lot of support from his rebounders.

He made one of the most dynamic layups of the postseason when he went one-on-one with James in the first half and reached up while falling and — with a flick of the wrist — spun the ball off the backboard.

He made another basket halfway through the third to surpass 20 points in the game, making it the seventh straight game he has reached at least 20 points.

The Nuggets went on an 11-4 run at the end of the third to close the gap to 87-84.

But the Lakers started the fourth by going on a 6-0 run of their own.

The Nuggets managed to keep the score close until the end, but they missed their last five shots of the game as the Lakers played better down the stretch.

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From zero to Herro

Agence France-Presse

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TYLER Herro erupts for 37 points to lift the Miami Heat to a 112-109 win over the Boston Celtics. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MIAMI (AFP) — Rising star Tyler Herro scored a career high 37 points and Jimmy Butler chipped in 24 as the Miami Heat seized command of their Eastern Conference final series with a 112-109 win on Wednesday.

The 20-year-old rookie Herro made five of 10 threes as Miami took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.

“It is a good win for us. I feel good we are up 3-1 but we still have a lot of work to do,” Herro said.

“We put a lot of effort into preparing for Game 4 and we got it done.”

Herro’s point total is the second most in a playoff game for a player 20 or younger behind only Magic Johnson who had 42.

The win moved them to within one victory of an NBA finals berth, which they will try to secure in Game 5 on Friday.

“Not too many people get an opportunity to make it this far in the playoffs and be in a game like this, but for him it’s another day in the office,” said Butler of Herro.

“He’s just going to keep playing basketball the right way.”

Goran Dragic had 22 points, and Bam Adebayo added 20 points and 12 rebounds for Miami, who rebounded from just their second loss of the postseason in Game 3.

Jayson Tatum scored a team high 28 points, all coming in the second half, and Jaylen Brown had 21 for Boston, which was looking to win consecutive playoff games for the first time since the start of their second-round series against the Toronto Raptors.

Kemba Walker scored 20 points, Gordon Hayward had 14 and Marcus Smart finished with 10 points and 11 assists.

The Celtics turned the ball over 19 times in the game.

“We’ve got to do a better job of handling the ball and taking care of it,” said coach Brad Stevens.

Miami went on a 10-4 run at the end of the first half after Hayward hit a pair of free throws to tie the score 40-40 with 3:38 left in the second.

“Just trying to get a rhythm going early,” said Herro.

“Once you see a couple shots go down, the rest of the game is easier for you. Tonight was definitely a good night.”

Herro nailed a three pointer with just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter to give Miami a 98-90 lead.

Brown made a three pointer and Smart dropped in a layup to get the Celtics within three, but Dragic and Butler each made baskets to pad Miami’s lead.

Dragic responded from beyond the arc and Herro added a layup to put Miami up by nine with 56 seconds left in regulation.

Boston got within three again on a Brown three-pointer with 16 seconds to go, but free throws by Herro and Butler sealed the victory.

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PBA bubble gets green light

Bea Micaller

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The resumption of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) 45th season is finally a go.

PBA chairman Ricky Vargas on Thursday announced that they have already secured a provisional authority from the Inter Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) that will effectively allow them to restart their aborted season.

Vargas, who sat down with ranking IATF executives together with PBA commissioner Willie Marcial, said they have already secured the confidence of the government through the help of Bases Conversion and Development Authority chief Vince Dizon, who played a key role in holding the games inside the Clark Freeport Zone using a bubble concept.

“This is a happy event,” said Vargas, who has good relationship with Dizon after serving as president of the Philippine Olympic Committee during the country’s buildup for its hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games last year.

“We are happy to announce that, through the help of Sec. Dizon, we have secured the provisional approval of the IATF.”

The PBA had already ironed out all the kinks in its bubble plan.

The league would house around 350 delegates composed of players, coaches and team officials from 12 teams at the Quest Hotel inside Clark Freeport Zone.

Games would be held at the Angeles University Foundation gymnasium starting 11 October, but delegates would start entering the bubble on 28 and 29 September.

But now that the IATF finally issued its green light, the PBA will formally become the first league in the country to open amid the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dizon, who is also the deputy chief implementer of the national COVID-19 task force, explained that the PBA was given provisional authority because its health measures are strict and stringent than that of the Joint Administrative Order (JAO) group, which is composed of the Philippine Sports Commission, Department of Health and Games and Amusement Board.

“The current issue here is that the protocols stated in JAO are different from the protocols set by the PBA for the bubble,” Dizon said.

“We just need to amend the protocols and with the provisional approval, we now have the authority to begin the bubble.”

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Herro drops 37 as Heat push East Finals lead to 3-1

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(AFP)

Tyler Herro waxed-hot with 37 points to lead Miami to a 112-109 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday (Manila time) as the Heat inched closer to their first NBA championship appearance since 2014.

The rookie went 14-of-21 from the field including 5-of-10 treys for Miami, which bounced back from a Game 3 defeat for a 3-1 series advantage. Jimmy Butler had 24 points and nine rebounds, Goran Dragic finished with 22 points and Bam Adebayo had 20 points and pulled down 12 rebounds for Boston.

Game 5 is on Saturday (Manila time).

Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 28 points and nine rebounds, Jaylen Brown had 21 points while Kemba Walker finished with 20. Gordon Hayward got 14 points for Boston.

Miami went on a 10-4 run at the end of the first half after Hayward hit a pair of free throws to tie the score 40-40 with 3:38 left in the second.

In the second half, Herro nailed a three pointer with just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter to give Miami a 98-90 lead.

Brown made a three pointer and Smart dropped in a layup to get the Celtics within three, but Dragic and Butler each made baskets to pad Miami’s lead.

Dragic responded from beyond the arc and Herro added a layup to put Miami up by nine with 56 seconds left in regulation.

Boston got within three again on a Brown three-pointer with 16 seconds to go, but free throws by Herro and Butler sealed the victory.

 

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Murray keeps Nuggets afloat

I just wanted to see them have a lot of fun today.

Agence France-Presse

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JAMAL Murray fires 28 points to lead the Denver Nuggets to a 114-106 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. / Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images/Agence france-presse

MIAMI (AFP) — Jamal Murray scored 28 points as the Denver Nuggets held off a ferocious late fightback from the Los Angeles Lakers to roar back into contention in the Western Conference finals series on Tuesday.

Murray nailed two crucial late three-pointers in the closing minutes as Denver held on for a 114-106 victory in Game 3 to reduce the Lakers’ lead to 2-1 in their best-of-seven series.

But the Nuggets — who looked in complete control for long periods of the contest — were given a mighty scare by the Lakers in a thrilling fourth-quarter battle.

The Lakers had trailed by 20 points with just over 10 minutes remaining but whittled away the Denver lead to just three points with 3:53 left on the clock.

But just as it looked as if LeBron James and Anthony Davis were poised to complete a remarkable comeback, Murray regrouped to take the game away from the Lakers.

The 23-year-old Canadian’s three-pointer from 26 feet gave Denver a seven-point advantage at 106-99 and he then provided the assist for Paul Millsap to make it 108-99.

With less than a minute on the clock, Murray struck the dagger blow with a 29-foot three-point jumper to make it 111-99 and effectively seal victory.

Denver coach Michael Malone said his team — which had suffered an agonizing buzzer-beater defeat in Game 2 on Sunday — was determined not to go 3-0 down in the series.

The Nuggets have already overturned 3-1 series deficits en route to the Western Conference finals.

“I had no doubt we were going to show up tonight,” Malone said.

“We have won six straight elimination games. Everybody always has us packing our bags and leaving, but we’re not ready to go. They’re a very resilient group and they have proved that time and time again.”

Asked about his late flourish, Murray said he had set out to lead by example.

“That’s my whole energy, my whole approach to the game, not getting down if I miss a couple of shots,” Murray said.

“I’m just trying to be aggressive but the most important part is the energy I bring when I’m talking to my teammates, being a vocal leader, getting up and down and pushing everybody so they tend to follow. I just wanted to see them have a lot of fun today.”

The Lakers, meanwhile, were left reflecting on an uneven display which ultimately left James and Davis with too much to do.

James led the scoring with a triple double comprised of 30 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, with six turnovers. Davis had 27 points, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (12) and Kyle Kuzma (11) the only other Lakers players to crack double figures.

Murray, who also had 12 assists, was backed with 26 points from Jerami Grant while Nikola Jokic weighed in with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

“You put yourself in an 18-point hole, it’s tough to climb out of that,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.

“I thought Denver played with great energy throughout the game. We didn’t match it early; we matched it late. They’re a great basketball team so credit it to them for the win. They played a really good basketball game.”

“We were not as sharp as we could have been on both ends of the floor. We were playing at a high level, but were a little bit off in the first half.”

“But I liked the spirit that the guys competed with down the stretch to try and make it a game.”

Game 4 takes place on Thursday.

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Thompson repays Altas

Bea Micaller

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Scottie Thompson played the role of an ambassador when Frankie Lim decided to step down as head coach of University of Perpetual Help System Dalta in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Speaking in the latest edition of The Athletes Tribune, Thompson said the owners of Perpetual sought his help to convince his players to stay in the wake of Lim’s sudden resignation.

“The owners talked to me and asked me if I can speak to the players and convince them to stay,” said Thompson, the Barangay Ginebra swingman who is regarded as one of the most successful alumni of Perpetual.

“They worry that the players might transfer to other school due to what happened.”

In an interview with Daily Tribune, Lim said his contract was supposed to be effective until November, but was suspended last July as he started missing his paychecks.

He quit, leaving behind a good run in Season 94 with Prince Eze emerging as Most Valuable Players.

Thompson said he is repaying Perpetual’s trust in him by helping it in keeping the team intact.

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Simon rings final buzzer

Bea Micaller

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Peter June Simon formally announced his retirement, putting an end to a colorful 17-year career that saw him winning eight titles in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

In a social media post, the 40-year-old veteran expressed gratitude, saying that he didn’t expect that somebody like him would make it to the PBA despite being left unsigned after being drafted with the 43rd pick in the 2001 Rookie Draft.

He brought his talent to the Metropolitan Basketball Association before seeing action in the Philippine Basketball League until finally finding his way to the PBA.

“I did not expect that a lanky and small boy from Makilala, North Cotabato will make it to the PBA,” Simon said in a lengthy farewell message that came a couple of days after Daily Tribune broke the report that Magnolia left him in the free agency.

“It’s heartbreaking, but I think this is a perfect time to bid the league goodbye.”

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