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  1. 2014 NBA Finals: Spurs - Team United Nations

    Are the San Antonio Spurs America’s Team in their ongoing National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals duel with the two-time reigning league titlist Miami Heat?

    Maybe so since the oddsmakers have pegged the Spurs as the slight favorites to romp away with their fifth championship since 1999.

    Then again, maybe not since the majority of the players on San Antonio’s 15-man roster for the NBA Finals were not born in the United States.

    In contrast, the Heat are parading a 15-man all-American cast in their titular rematch with the Spurs. A year ago, when Miami retained its NBA crown following an epic 4-3 decision over San Antonio, the Florida club only employed a single non-American in its lineup in seldom-used backup center Joel Anthony, Anthony, a native of Montreal, Canada, was traded to the Boston Celtics last January.

    Nine of the 15 Spurs first saw the light of the day on non-American soil.

    And of the six “homegrown” players, four are marginals that have not gotten much playing time through the first three rounds of the playoffs and another that has yet to come off the pines after 18 games.

    The six “stateside” Spurs are Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles, California), Danny Green (New York, New York), Matt Bonner (Concord, New Hampshire), Jeff Ayres (Ontario, California) and Austin Daye (Mission Viejo, California, Damion James (Hobbs, New Mexico).

    While Leonard and Green are in the starting lineup, Bonner (6.1 minutes per game), Ayres (14 games, 4.2 minutes) and Daye (1 game, 6.0 minutes) has seen limited service and James has yet to see a second of action.

    The nine internationalists in the Spurs lineup are starters Tim Duncan (St. Croix, Virgin Islands), Tony Parker (born in Bruges, Belgium but raised in France) and Tiago Splitter (Joinville, Brazil), Sixth Man Manu Ginobili (Bahia Blanca, Argentina) and reserves Boris Diaw (Cormeille-en-Parisis, France), Patty Mills (Canberra, Australia), Marco Belinelli (Bologna, Italy), Cory Joseph (Toronto, Canada), and Aron Baynes (Gisborne, New Zealand).

    Aside from the U.S., eight countries are represented on the San Antonio roster – U.S. Virgin Islands, France, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Italy, Canada and New Zealand.

    For good measure, Spurs bench boss Gregg Popovich was born in East Chicago, Indiana to a Serbian father and Croatian mother.


    If the Spurs can’t be America’s Team, then they surely qualify as the NBA’s United Nations squad
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  2. 2014 NBA Finals: The Odds in an Even-Numbered Year

    The oddsmakers have picked the San Antonio Spurs as the slight favorites to win this year's NBA championship over the two-time reigning league titlist Miami Heat.

    The odds also favor the Spurs to capture Game 1 at home by 3.5 points.

    Yet in an even-numbered year, will the Alamo City squad succeed in its "Drive for Five" quest in the first back-to-back Finals appearance in franchise history?

    Every NBA fan worth his salt knows that the Spurs' foiurst four titles have come in an odd-numbers years - 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007.

    The Twin Towers of Tim Duncan and David Robinson bannered the 1999 and 2003 championships. Both guards Argentinian Manu Ginobili and French Tony Parker were also part the 2003 unit.

    Ginobili made his debut in the world's ultimate cage forum following four seasons of apprenticeship in the Italian League (1998-2002). Parker, who was born in Belgium but raised in France, was already an NBA sophomore in 2003 after spending four seasons in the French League (1997-2001)

    "The Admiral" Robinson hang up his jersey in the summer of 2003. The Spurs, though, secured two more crowns in 2005 and 2007 behind the triumvirate of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili.

    A year ago,San Antonio was poised to romp away with its fifth championship in an odd-numbered year, owning a 3-2 lead against the same Miami Heat and seconds away from clinching Game Six and the final series. However, the Heat spoiled it all when Ray Allen connected on a pressure-packed triple to force overtime and Miami went on to take Game Six as well as Game Seven both on its home floor.

    If there will be redemption for coach Gregg Popovich's charges this year, it has to come uncharacteristically in an even-numbered year.
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  3. 2014 NBA Finals Facts and Figures2014 NBA Finals Schedule

    San Antonio (62-20) vs. Miami (54-2
    Best-of-Seven Series
    2-2-1-1-1 Format
    Homecourt Advantage: San Antonio to host Game 1 and Game 2 and, if necessary, Game 5 and Game 7

    The 2014 Finals Schedule (all Manila times): Game 1 at San Antonio, June 6 (Friday, 9 a.m.); Game 2 at San Antonio, June 9 (Monday, 8 a.m.); Game 3 at Miami, June 11 (Wednesday, 9:00 a.m.); Game 4 at Miami, June 13 (Friday, 9 a.m.); Game 5 at San Antonio, if necessary, June 16 (Monday, 8 a.m.); Game 6 at Miami, if necessary, June 18 (Wednesday, 9 a.m.); and Game 7 at San Antonio, if necessary, June 21 (Saturday, 9 a.m.).

    SAN ANTONIO SPURS (12-6, 9-1 at home))
    Statistics: Tony Parker (17.2 ppg, 4.9 apg), Tim Duncan (16.5 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.39 bpg), Manu Ginobili (14.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.1 apg, 1.72 spg), Kawhi Leonard (13.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.1.72 spg), Boris Diaw (10.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.7 apg), Danny Green (9.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg),Tiago Splitter (7.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, Patty Mills (6.5 ppg), Marco Belinelli (5.7 ppg, 1.60 rpg), Cory Joseph (14 games, 3.3 ppg, 0.6 rpg), Aron Baynes (11 games, 2.4 ppg, 2.60 rpg), Matt Bonner (1.2 ppg, 0.6 rpg), Jeff Ayres (14 games, 0.9 ppg, 0.9 rpg), Austin Daye (1 game, 0.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg).

    MIAMI HEAT (12-3, 8-0 at home)
    Statistics: LeBron James (27.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 5.0 apg, 1.80 spg), Dwyane Wade (18.7 ppg, 3.90 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.47 spg), Chris Bosh (15.2 ppg, 5.70 rpg, 1.27 bpg), Ray Allen (9.1 ppg, 3.50 rpg, 1.5 apg), Mario Chalmers (7.1 ppg, 2.60 rpg, 3.9 apg), Chris Anderson (13 games, 6.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.15 bpg), Norris Cole (5.1 ppg,1.8 apg), Rashard Lewis (13 games, 4.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg), James Jones (11 games, 3.8 ppg), Shane Battier (12 games, 3.1 ppg), Udonis Haslem (12 games, 3.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg), Toney Douglas (7 games, 0.9 ppg), Michael Beasley (3 games, 0.7 ppg) and Greg Oden (1 game, 0.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg).

    Non-Americans

    San Antonio - Parker (France), Duncan (U.S. Virgin Islands), Ginobili (Argentina), Diaw (France), Splitter (Brazil, Mills (Australia), Belinelli (Italy), Joseph (Canada), and Baynes (New Zealand).

    Miami - None
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  4. NBA Finals Fearful Forecast: Miami over San Antonio in 6

    Just like what pop icon Michael Jackson titled for a comeback world concert tour that was aborted following his sudden death from drug intoxication in June 2009, the four-tier National Basketball Association playoffs have reached the “This Is it” stage – the Finals, a best-of-seven confrontation between the Eastern Conference champion and the Western Conference titlist with a comebacking 2-2-1-1-1 (home-road-home-road-home) format (replacing the old 2-3-2 scheme that was utilized in 1985 and lasted until last year).

    The protagonists: The two-time reigning NBA champion Miami Heat and the Father Time-defying San Antonio Spurs. By virtue of a better win-loss record during the regular season, the Spurs (62-20) will enjoy homecourt advantage against the Heat (54-2.

    The title series opener will be held on Friday, June 6 (Manila time), at the AT&T Center in Texas. Game Two will also be played on the Spurs’ home floor next Monday, June 9 (MT), before the championship duel shifts to the South Florida where Miami will play host to Games Three and Four at the AmericanAirlines Arena.

    The two teams split their two-game head-to-hear regular duel, with each winning on its home floor – Miami (113-101) and San Antonio (111-87).

    The Heat overcame homecourt disadvantage in finishing off the Indiana Pacers in six games for the East crown while the Spurs knocked out the Oklahoma City Thunder, also in six games, to cop the West diadem.

    San Antonio will enjoy homecourt advantage against the Heat and the 2-2-1-1-1 format tend to favor the Alamo City squad (unlike last year, under the 2-3-2- format, the Spurs were up 3-2 after five games but dropped the sixth and seventh games in Miami to hand the Heat their second consecutive crown).

    However, the Spurs enter the Finals with some injury issues. Their top playoff scorer, playmaker de luxe Tony Parker, has left ankle soreness and sat out the second half and overtime period of the West final series-clinching Game Six against the Thunder.

    Only after the four-break will San Antonio be able to find out if the cerebral French guard is ready to go full throttle.

    Great players don’t like to make excuses if their teams lose in the playoffs – not due to player injuries or even poor officiating.

    Then again, every NBA fan worth his salt knows that if Miami is decimated by an injury to do-it-all LeBron James, the Heat’s performance undoubtedly will be affected immensely.

    That’s why Parker’s inability to play at a high level or even show up in the Finals will be a major factor in the Spurs’ title quest.

    I believe the Spurs need to preserve “home serve” by taking the first two games if they are to make the Finals competitive. A split can be fatal as Miami is 8-0 on its home floor in the ongoing playoffs.

    My fearful forecast: Miami over San Antonio in six games for a title “three-peat” that the NBA has yet to experience since the Los Angeles Lakers turned in the trick from 2000 to 2002.

    Miami is back in the NBA Finals for the fourth year in a row – the first team to do so in 27 years and only the third franchise in league history to accomplish the feat.

    The Boston Celtics were the first franchise to make at least four consecutive trips to the Finals and the Hub City squad did it twice.

    They reached the Finals for 10 straight years from 1957 to 1966 during the Bill Russell era, collecting nine championships along the way.

    Boston again earned a Finals ticket for four consecutive years from 1984 to 1987, this time behind the triumvirate of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, with the Green emerging victorious in 1984 and 1986.

    Before that, the Los Angeles Lakers also got into the Finals for four years in a row from 1982 to 1985, winning it all in 1982 and 1985.

    The 2014 NBA Finals mark the 13th time in league history that the same two teams will be disputing the Larry O’Brien championship in consecutive years – and the first since Chicago and Utah, powered by Hall of Fame-bound stars Michael Jordan and Karl Malone, respectively, clashed in the 1997 and 1998 title duels.
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  5. Chip and Jeanie: Once There Was a Love

    Did you know that former Philippine national team player and current San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Arthur (Chip) Engelland and one-time Playboy Magazine cover girl bunny and current Los Angeles Lakers part-owner and president Jeanie Buss were once sweethearts during their high school days?

    Times have changed, of course.

    Buss, as if you still don’t know, is now the fiancée of newly-minted New York Knicks president Phil Jackson.

    During his heyday, Jackson earned a ring as a valuable reserve on the New York’ 1973 NBA championship unit and collected 11 more as a head coach with the Chicago Bulls (six, a pair of three-peats from 1991-93 and 1996-9 and LA Lakers (five, a three-peat from 2001-03 and a repeat in 2009 and 2010).

    Jackson, who turns 69 in September, retired from X-ing and 0-ing in May 2011 with the most number of championships by a head coach in NBA history.

    The Zen Master returned to the league last March when New York, his original NBA employer, came-a-calling with an eye-popping five-year, $60-million offer.

    Jackson has been married twice in the 1960s and 1970s.

    Engelland, a native of Los Angeles, once served as a ball boy for legendary coach John Wooden’s NCAA champion University of Los Angeles at California (UCLA) Bruins in 1975.

    The 6-4 Engelland started his basketball-playing career at Pacific Palisades High School then later attended Duke University for four seasons under Mike Krzyzewski, a two-time U.S. Olympic men’s basketball coach who piloted the Yanks to gold-medal finishes in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012.

    Undrafted by any NBA team in 1983, He never made the NBA grade but suited up for the Philippine national unit that topped the 1985 Jones Cup competitions and was with the San Miguel Beermen in the Philippine Basketball Association for two seasons.

    Engelland, nicknamed “The Machine Gun” by Filipino cage fans for his shooting prowess, formally joined the NBA world in 1999-2000 as a shooting consultant for the Detroit Pistons. Three years later, he hooked up with the Denver Nuggets as their director of player development, holding the post for two seasons.

    Since 2005-2006, Engelland has worked as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs under bench boss Gregg Popovich.

    Engelland earned an NBA ring with the Spurs in 2007 and is looking for another one this month as the Spurs, with the homecourt advantage under the comebacking 2-2-1-1-1 (home-road) format, go up against the two-time reigning champion Miami Heat in the best-of-three NBA Finals for a second consecutive year. The 2014 NBA Finals start on Friday, June 6 (Manila time), at the AT&T Center in Texas.

    Engelland is married to Jessica Grunow of Troy Michigan. The couple has two sons, Press and Path.

    Buss, who like Jackson was born in the month of September (she turns 53 on September 26), once posed nude in the May 1995 issue of Playboy (at age 34). She married volleyball player Steve Timmons in 1990 but the duo was divorced after three years.

    Buss and Jackson became engaged on January 3, 2013. The two began dating in December 1999 – or just when the Jackson joined the Lakers organization as its head coach.
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