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  1. NBA: Final Day Fireworks

    Maundy Thursday (Manila time) marks the final playdate of the National Basketball Association?s 1,230-game regular season. It?s one exciting finale for various seeding positions entering the real season that is the 2017 playoffs have yet to be determined.

    A total of 14 games are scheduled to be played on the last day of the regular wars ? Detroit at Orlando, Toronto at Cleveland, Milwaukee at Boston, Philadelphia at New York, Washington at Miami, Brooklyn at Chicago, Dallas at Memphis, Minnesota at Houston, Denver at Oklahoma City, Atlanta at Indiana, San Antonio at Utah, Sacramento at the Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State and New Orleans at Portland.

    Seven of the aforementioned contests have playoff implications.

    All eight playoff tickets from the Western Conference have been secured although the Los Angeles Clippers (50-31) and Utah Jazz (50-31) are still fighting it out for the important No. 4 seed. The two teams are slated to tangle in the first-round playoffs but the fourth-seeded team will enjoy home-court advantage against the No. 5 seed in their best-of-seven series.

    Out in the Eastern Conference, six teams have qualified for the postseason but the final two (seventh and eighth) are still being contested by three teams ? Indiana Pacers (41-40) Chicago Bulls (40-41) and Miami Heat (40-41) ? and the No. 1 overall seed in the conference is still up for grabs between Boston (52-29) and the reigning NBA titlist but slumping Cleveland Cavaliers (51-30).

    Here are the playoff scenarios heading into the final regular playdate on Thursday, April 13 (Manila time):
    1-If the LA Clippers beat the lottery-bound Sacramento Kings or Utah loses to No. 2 seed San Antonio (61-20), the Clippers will secure the No. 4 seed. Granting that LAC and Utah both win or both lose, the Clippers will still land at No. 4 because of their tie-breaking, season-series win over the Jazz. If LAC loses and Utah wins, the Jazz will get the 4-seed.

    Golden State, which owns the best regular-season card in the NBA for the third year in a row at 66-15, will have home-court advantage during the entire playoffs, including the NBA Finals, assuming the Warriors advance that far.

    With Houston (54-27) locked in at No. 3 and Oklahoma City (47-34) at No. 6 in the West, a Rockets-Thunder matchup in the first-round playoffs ? and Clash of the Titans warfare between the top two NBA Most Valuable Player contenders and scoring and triple-double machines in James Harden (21 T-D games) and Russell Westbrook (an all-time league record 42 T-Ds) ? is guaranteed.

    Memphis (43-3 is a lock at No. 7 and Portland (41-40) has the No. 8 slot.

    2-If Boston beats No. 6 seed Milwaukee (42-39) or if Cleveland loses to No. 3 seed Toronto (50-31), the Celtics will have the No. 1 seed in the East. If Boston loses to the Bucks and the Cavaliers beat the Raptors, the Celts and Cavs will be deadlocked at 52-30. However, Cleveland will have the tie-breaker advantage because of its 3-1 season-series win over Boston.

    If Cleveland loses to Toronto, both the Cavs and Raptors will own identical records. Cleveland, though, owns the tie-breaker advantage over the Raptors and will still be ranked No. 2.

    A loss by Toronto and a win by No. 4 seed Washington (49-32) over Miami will produce a deadlock between the Raptors and Wizards at 50-32. Toronto will be ranked higher at No. 3 because of its tiebreaker advantage over Washington.

    3-Atlanta (43-3, with its 100-76 victory over Charlotte today, has clinched the No. 5 seed even with a loss at Indiana tomorrow. The Hawks (43-3 own the tie-breaker edge over temporary No. 6 seed Milwaukee (42-39) in case Atlanta loses to Indiana and the Bucks beat Boston to create a deadlock at 43-39.

    Atlanta will take on No. 4 seed Washington (49-32) in the first-round playoffs with the Wizards enjoying home-court advantage.

    If Toronto (50-31) loses to Cleveland and Washington beats Miami tomorrow, both teams will be 50-32. The Raptors will be seeded No. 3 with their tiebreaker advantage over the Wizards.

    A win by Indiana (41-40) over Atlanta and a loss by Milwaukee (42-39) to Boston will create a deadlock between the Pacers and Bucks at 42-40. Indiana will move up to No. 6 and Milwaukee will slip to No. 7 due to a tiebreak advantage.

    4-If Indiana (41-40) beats Atlanta and Chicago (40-41) beats Brooklyn in their respective games today, Miami (40-41) will automatically eliminated even if it beats Washington. The Bulls own the tiebreaker advantage over the Heat, which was once mired at 11-30.

    A final-day loss by either Chicago or Miami will assure the Pacers of a playoff berth even if they drop their game against the Hawks. If both Indiana and Chicago lose and ...
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  2. NBA MVP: Westbrook or Harden?

    Recently-retired National Basketball Association and Los Angeles Lakers icon Kobe Bryant said that point guards Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder and James Harden of the Houston Rockets should share the league?s Most Valuable Player award this season.

    With the declaration, Bryant was probably just being polite and his belief may be politically correct considering the tight MVP derby that is expected to come down to a toss-up between Westbrook and Harden, both of whom have had mind-boggling individual accomplishments to back up their respective cases ? even if statistics have never been a basis for MVP selection since the league institutionalized the award in 1955-56.

    Until 1979-80, the players controlled the MVP balloting. But since 1980-81, the sportswriters and broadcasters that covered the league games have taken over the chores.

    Though, it has likely come down to Westbrook and Harden, a one-time Manila visitor, it does not mean there are no other worthy MVP contenders in this history-filled season. There?s Cleveland?s LeBron James, a four-time awardee in the past; San Antonio?s Kawhi Leonard, and even Golden State?s Stephen Curry, the back-to-back reigning titlist whose Warriors have secured the best regular-season record in the NBA for the third consecutive year.

    To have a tie for the MVP award when this has never ever happened before is easier said than done.

    The NBA MVP voting system is the culprit. A nationwide media panel of 125 sportswriters and broadcasters ? three from each of the 30 member clubs that cover the league games and the remainder by national media ? does the balloting. They are asked to name their top five choices according to their preferences with points being assigned (10 points for a first-place vote, 7 for second, 5 for third, 3 for fourth and 1 for fifth) on the basis of their rankings.

    It?s the overall points accumulated ? and not the number of first-place votes secured ? that will determine the MVP winner.
    As such, the voting system would likely preclude the possibility of a deadlock in the race for the Maurice Podoloff (MVP) hardware. Only an identical points total by multiple players will produce a tie.

    There have been cases in the past where one player had the most first-place votes and yet lost the MVP race. The most recent occurrence came in 1990 when burly forward Charles Barkley of the Philadelphia 76ers had 11 more first-place votes than the eventual winner Magic Johnson of the LA Lakers.

    During the 1961-62 wars, Oscar Robertson of the Cincinnati Royals (the predecessors of the Sacramento Kings) chalked up 41 triple-double games and registered a T-D average, but the ?Big O? placed only third in the MVP race.

    That same campaign, the Philadelphia Warriors' Wilt Chamberlain had his 100-point game for an all-time NBA record and averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds - both NBA season highs - in 80 games. The Big Dipper finished only second in the MVP poll by the players.
    The winner: Boston's Bill Russell (18.9 ppg, 23.6 rpg).

    Note that at the time, and even as it is now, regular-season stats were only used as a guide, nothing more.

    Russell, of course, went on to power the title-streaking Celtics to the NBA crown in 1961-62.

    The 6-3 Westbrook posted his 42nd triple-double game of the season today ? 50 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in 37 minutes during the Thunder?s 106-105 win over the Nuggets in Denver on his first career game-winning buzzer beater, a three-pointer from 36 feet ? to shatter the old NBA single-season record for T-D games he previously shared with Robertson.

    With two games remaining (at Minnesota, Apr. 12, Manila time; and against visiting Denver, Apr. 13, MT), Westbrook is averaging a nine-year career-high 31.9 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists in 80 appearances for the playoffs-bound Oklahoma City, which is seeded sixth in the Western Conference with a 46-34 record.

    Westbrook is a cinch to capture his second NBA scoring title. The first came in 2014-15 when he normed 28.1 ppg in 67 assignments for a Thunder unit that missed the playoffs.

    In contrast, the 6-5 Harden himself has produced an NBA second-leading 21 triple-doubles, including a 35-point, 11-rebound, 15-assist performance in the playoffs-headed Rockets? 135-128 road victory over the Sacramento Kings today.

    In averaging an eight-year career highs of 29.4 points (in a tight battle with Boston?s Isiah Thomas for second place in the NBA) and 11.3 assists (best in the majors) and grabbing 8.1 rebounds in 79 outings (he missed a game due to flu), ?The Beard? has powered Houston to the third-best record in the West at 54-26 (with two games remaining) after the Rockets barely qualified for the postseason a year ago as the ...
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  3. What GOAT?

    You want to start a never-ending bar discussion that just might degenerate into an out and out bar room brawl? Ask the guys in the bar who the greatest player of all time is. Yes, that's right, ask them who the GOAT is.

    It sounds like a harmless enough question, something that can be the subject of a rather fun discussion, maybe even elicit a few laughs.

    But then again, that depends on who one asks. There are some fans that will - quite literally - fight you over their choice of GOAT.

    In the basketball world, there seems to be an easy enough answer, a rare consensus that is, that Michael Jordan, His Airness, is the sport's greatest of all time.

    It'd be a compelling case: multiple NBA championships, multiple MVP awards, multiple defensive player of the year awards, All Star from Day 1, the man who basically turned the game of basketball into a global game, arguably the most popular athlete of his generation, and one of the most popular of all time regardless of sport.

    And this, Praxedes, is where I must throw a monkey wrench into the works.

    It is well-documented how much I do not subscribe to the notion of a Most Valuable Player. Let me know declare, using a similar line of argument, that I now believe there can be no such thing as a greatest of all time, no way is there a GOAT.

    Allow me to explain, Praxedes, using a similar tack as the MVP argument.

    Basketball is a team sport, so by that very fundamental principle alone, no one player could ever win on his own. There is no way, for example, that one could take say fourteen Division 3 scrubs, complete their roster with the 25-year old Michael Jordan, and expect them to become NBA champion. I would bet even money they might even become the worst team in the league. Sure, Jordan would in all likelihood score 50 points per game and put on a show every night, but a team this awful just cannot win, even with the nominal GOAT on their roster.

    Think about all of the players who have ever been in the GOAT conversation: Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron James, Oscar Roberston, Bill Russell, Trim Duncan and on and on and on.

    Each of those men are in the conversation because they are champions, they have the individual awards, and they have those "intangibles" that made them all winners.

    One of the things I think that is conveniently left out of this conversation is that the times they won they all had at least one other teammate who was himself an All Star. Heck, Magic and Kareem won five championships together on those Showtime Lakers teams. Jordan, for all of his wondrous talent, had the greatest sidekick in the history of the NBA in Scottie Pippen. Pippen may not have won a thing without Jordan, but Jordan, arguably won as much as he did thanks in large part to Pippen.

    You don't think having great teammates mattered for these guys? What if Magic was only passing to say Mike Smrek and Adrian Branch instead of Kareem and James Worthy; would that still have been Showtime? What if Bird only had David Thirdkill and Fred Roberts and never had Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish? What if Jordan only had Larry Neal instead of Pippen? What's that, Praxedes? You never even heard of those other guys? Would it surprise you to know that all of those guys really were teammates of those aforementioned GOAT candidates during their respective times with the Lakers, Celtics, and Bulls?

    Imagine Jordan or Magic on say the Los Angeles Clippers, or the Vancouver Grizzlies, of their time, and I would still wager even money that they would not have won with either of those teams either. For all of an elite superstar's talent and powers, the very nature of the game of basketball precludes any one player from being able to carry an entire team all by himself all the way to a championship.

    Let us just imagine what such a player would have to do. He would probably have to score over 50 points per game, deliver a triple double with rebounds and assists every game as well, maybe thrown in two to three blocks, and two to three steals per game, be able to shoot 50% from three-point range, at least 60% overall from the field, and at least 90% from on freethrows. If he could, he should never ever foul out, or get a technical, or miss a game due to discipline or injury. He would also have to lead his team to the championship every year, meaning if he has a typical NBA career that he would have led his team to 10 straight championships assuming he has a 10-year career. Given all of the foregoing he would also be a 10-time MVP, maybe at least a 5-time Defensive Player of the Year, definitely he would be an historic Rookie-MVP, taking after Chamberlain and Wes Unseld. Only under all of those circumstances would anybody be the GOAT, that is how impossible ...
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  4. FIBA Hall of Fame (3)

    To local basketball fans, he may not ring a bell. But in the international stage, Dionisio (Chito) Calvo stood tall.

    The late Calvo is lone Filipino who is enshrined in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Hall of Fame.

    Calvo was among the first batch of 43 personages to be inducted into the FIBA Hall in March 2007.

    Calvo was one of the 24 posthumous inductees under the ?contributors? category.

    Calvo was the head coach of the Philippine Olympic team that ranked fifth during the 1936 Berlin Games. The games marked the first time that basketball competitions were held. The fifth-place finish remains the highest ranking by an Asian country in Olympic men?s basketball history.
    Calvo also piloted the PH national team to 12th place in the 1948 London Olympics.

    Likewise, he mentored the Filipinos to the men?s basketball gold during the inaugural Asian Games in New Delhi, India in 1951.

    As an organizer, Calvo initiated the formation of the Asian Basketball Confederation in 1960. The ABC has since been renamed as the FIBA Asia Championship.

    According to the official FIBA book ?The Basketball World,? the idea of putting up the ABC was first brought up in 1958 in Tokyo by basketball leaders from various Asian countries competing in the Third Asian Games, a multi-sport quadrennial event that included basketball.

    An urgent need was felt to set up a regional controlling body for basketball in Asia and a temporary committee under the chairmanship of Calvo was constituted to look into this possibility.

    Through the efforts of Calvo, the first Asian Conference and Basketball Championship for Men was initiated in January 1960 in Manila.

    Seven nations ? Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Malaya (now Malaysia) and the Philippines ? saw action in the tournament.

    Along with Pakistan, they also attended the Conference at which the draft constitution of the ABC was adopted and the participating countries admitted as members.

    Call it homecourt advantage, the Philippines romped away with the first ABC title in 1960, winning all of its nine assignments.

    Carlos Badion was named the tournament?s Most Valuable Player.

    The ABC was not officially founded until the second Asian Conference and Basketball Championship for Men was stage in Taipei in November 1963.

    Attended by representatives from nine countries, the ABA constitution and bylaws were ratified during the gathering. Officials such as then-Philippine Senator Ambrosio Padilla, president, and Calvo, secretary general, were elected to lead the organization.

    The Conference additionally resolved to hold men?s championships biennially, while avoiding the even-numbered years wherein the Summer Olympic Games and Asian Games were staged.

    In the local basketball scene, Calvo also organized the post-graduate Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA) league in 1938.

    The MICAA, of course, was the precursor of the professional Philippine Basketball Association PBA).

    A side note: The late Gonzalo (Lito) Puyat II was once a candidate for the FIBA Hall of fame but the former two-term FIBA president (1976-84) failed to make the grade.
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  5. Biasone: Revolutionized pro basketball with the 24-second shot clock rule

    Danny Biasone, the owner-president of the Syracuse Nationals (the forerunners of the Philadelphia 76ers) during the early years of the National Basketball Association, was credited for the creation of the 24-second shot clock rule in the National Basketball Association.

    The Italian-born Biasone was turned off by the constant stalling tactics that were being employed by the teams during the games played in the 1950s.

    The dull and farcical games had to stop and so Biasone convinced his fellow NBA club owners to adopt a shot clock rule for games starting with the 1954-55 season.

    How did the shot clock come down to 24 seconds?

    Said Biasone: ?I looked at the box scores from the games I enjoyed, games where they didn?t screw around and stall. I noticed each team took about 60 shots. That meant 120 shots per game. So I took 48 minutes ? 2,880 seconds ? and divided that by 120 shots. The result was 24 seconds per shot.?

    Together with Nats general manager Leo Ferris, Biasone developed the 24-second shot clock.

    The novel rule prevented the teams from holding the ball without any restrictions and forced them to hoist a field goal within 24 seconds of gaining ball possession.

    The rules change also would mean a faster game and higher scoring.

    True enough, the NBA game became fast-paced and the offense perked up with the introduction of the 24-second shot clock during the 1954-55 wars.

    The league?s scoring average leapfrogged to 93.1 points per game (from 79.5 ppg) and the clubs combined to hit .385 from the field (up from .372 in the previous season).

    From 150.7 field-goal attempts per game in 1953-54, the two teams combined for 172.8 floor shots in every game during the following season.
    The 24-second shot clock rule made its NBA debut on October 30, 1954, with the Rochester Royals (the predecessors of the Sacramento Kings) knocking off the Boston Celtics, 98-95.

    Ironically, Biasone?s Nats were the biggest winners in 1954-55, snaring the NBA championship with a 4-3 decision over the Fort Wayne (now Detroit) Pistons in a seven-game Finals that saw the home team emerge triumphant each time.

    Biasone died in 1992 but he will always be remembered as the creator of the 24-second shot clock rule.

    In 2000, Biasone was posthumously inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame under the contributor?s category.
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