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  1. The Trade

    The Cleveland Cavaliers are becoming the NBA franchise for milestone events in the Internet Age.

    First there was "The Decision". Then came "The Return". Now we have "The Trade".

    The first two events centered around LeBron James, without a doubt the biggest damn star in all of Cleveland sports history, no disrespect meant to Mr James Brown.

    That third event though, that is something that has gotten quite the buzz.

    Allow me to explain, Praxedes:

    Kyrie Irving, the top pick of the 2011 NBA Rookie Draft, an All Star and USA Basketball stalwart, asked Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to trade him a couple months back, reportedly because he "wanted to be more of the focal point" according to media articles and features.

    Fair enough, a man can certainly make his own decisions regarding his career.

    Fast forward to less than a few hours ago (as of this writing) and that trade has been consummated.

    Who did Cleveland get for Irving?

    Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and an unprotected 2018 draft pick.

    Thomas, picked 60th and last in the same draft where Irving went first overall, became a bona fide superstar last season, at one point averaging 30 points per game and eventually settling down to a little over 28 ppg.

    Had this been a one-for-one trade nobody would be talking about it much. After all, it was basically score-first superstar point guards swapping places.

    But the Celtics threw in Crowder, a lottery draftee, who is one of the best two-way players in the league and a top defender at both forward spots. They also threw in Zizic, still a work in progress as another 7-foot project but one with pretty good upside according to scouts.

    But the ultimate throw-in is that 2018 unprotected draft pick.

    Praxedes, do you know how Boston got that pick?

    They got that pick during their massive housecleaning that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets. Yes, those Brooklyn Nets, a team so bad that draft pick could easily be a Top 5 player in a draft year projected to be top heavy with the likes of Marvin Bagley III and Mohamed Bamba among those the Cavaliers could take.

    For one Kyrie Irving.

    Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge seems to think Irving is worth it. "You want a high quality player you have to pay a high price," he said in one interview.

    But is this a price that is too high?

    Ainge has built a reputation as an executive who has generally managed talent very well in Boston and everywhere else he's been. How did Cleveland get him to give up so much for Irving?

    Truth be told Irving and Thomas are certainly one of a type: score-first, clutch-shooting point guards who need the ball in their hands a lot, and both aren't exactly known for their defense. Irving in particular put up career numbers last season with over 25 ppg while shooting a little over 40% from three-range. He hit the title-clinching three in Game 7 of their historic resurrection from 1-3 down to Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals.

    Yet his defensive metrics can charitably be described as "mediocre".

    Thomas for his part went on a tear last season and might have made even more noise is the playoffs were it not for a hip injury.

    For all his greatness, Thomas is still just 5-foot-9, and players that small tend not to last very long, playing at that level, in the league.

    So it was the throw-ins that really made this a fleecing for Cleveland, fleecing the fleecer as it were.

    And as fate would have it, or maybe it really was part of the plan, Cleveland and Boston take on each other on opening night this October 17.

    I guess, Praxedes, we will find out right away who really fleeced who then, eh?
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  2. Is the Triangle Still Relevant Today?

    Is the triangle offense still relevant in today?s basketball scene?

    Modern-day basketball, at least in the sport?s flagship league National Basketball Association, is slowly devaluing the importance of the big men in the middle - the traditional dinosaurs that were the alpha dogs of their teams during the halcyon days of George Mikan, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Nate Thurmond Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O?Neal and even David Robinson ? and turning to a small-ball realignment that has been magnified by the success the Golden State Warriors, who romped away with the NBA crown for a second time in three years during the 2017 playoffs.

    In recent times, much emphasis has been placed on ball movement and teams have relied on the motion offense to ignite their shooting strategies.

    In the NBA, the triangle offense appears to be on the way out as its success is becoming a myth without a team with the right player personnel to implement.

    Phil Jackson, who while employing the triangle won a league-leading 11 championships in the 1990s and 2000s as the top bench tactician of the Chicago Bulls (six) and Los Angeles Lakers (five), imposed the offensive strategy on the woebegone New York Knicks team during his three-year stint as (2014-17) as the club?s president with disastrous results as the Gotham City outfit posted a combined 80-166 record (17-65/32-50/31-51) under Derek Fisher (1.5 seasons), Kurt Rambis (.5) and current head mentor Jeff Hornacek (2016-17).

    What exactly is the triangle offense? Known also as the triple post or sideline triangle, the triangle offense is an offensive strategy in basketball.
    Its basic concepts actually were formulated more than seven decades ago by former college coach Sam Barry at the University of Southern California.

    Barry introduced the triangle offense where players stand in triangular positions on either side of the basketball court to create good spacing between players and allow each one to pass to four teammates.

    Barry?s initial setup employed the simple triangulation setup of the center, who stands at the low post; a forward, who is at the wing; and a guard, who is at the corner, on one side of the court.

    At the other side of this five-player system are the off guard, who stands up at the top of the key, and the ?weaker? forward, who is on the weak-side high post.

    Barry, who was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978, ran his version of the triangle with a stocky guard named Morice Fredrick (Tex) Winter.

    When Winter became the head coach at Kansas State University in 1953, he brought Barry?s TO and even made it more complicated with different strategies involving various advantageous moves.

    Winter subsequently immortalized the triangle offense by writing the book ?Triple-Post Offense? in 1962 while at KSU.

    Winter hooked up with the Houston Rockets in the NBA in 1971-72 as their head coach. But after only one and a half seasons at the Rockets helm, he returned to the collegiate coaching ranks.

    Winter did not go back into the NBA until 1985 when he served as an assistant to head coaches Stan Albeck and Doug Collins while with the Chicago Bulls. Through the following years, Winter continued to make refinements on the triangle offense. When Phil Jackson took over the Bulls? head mentoring reins in 1989, he not only installed the offensive strategy full time but also gave it much prominence.

    Jackson hired Winter as one of his assistant coaches during his nine-year stay (1989-9 in Windy City and when the Zen Master joined the Los Angeles Lakers organization in 1999, he also brought along Winter as an assistant. In the next five seasons, the Lakers advanced to the NBA Finals on four occasions and earned three titles along the way behind Shaq and Kobe Bryant.

    Following a one-year sabbatical (2004-05), Jackson returned to the Lakers in 2005-06 and he again sought the services of Winter. The Lakers returned to prominence with back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010 behind Bryant and big man Pau Gasol.

    Jackson?s offensive philosophy undoubtedly was greatly influenced by his long association with Winter.

    The 95-year-old Winter was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011 under the ?contributor? category.
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  3. A Tall Man's Game

    Height is might in basketball, a game best served to tall men and women.

    Since Canadian physical education instructor Dr. James Naismith invented the game in mid-December 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts to keep young students in good physical shape during the cold months (winter) in the United States, international basketball has been dominated by athletes standing 6 feet and four inches on the average and as tall as 7-7.

    A survey conducted on all of the 449 players listed on the opening-day rosters of the 30 member teams in the National Basketball Association during its 2016-17 season showed an average height of 6-7 and an average weight of 221.4 pounds.

    The average NBA guy: Klay Thompson of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors who was listed at 6-7 and 215 pounds.

    The league?s tallest players were 7-3 Boban Marjanovic (Detroit), 7-3 Kristaps Porzingis (New York), 7-3 Edy Tavares (Atlanta), 7-2 Alexis Ajinca (New Orleans) and 7-2 Roy Hibbert (Charlotte).

    In the NBA?s 71-year history (the 72nd renewal will unwrap on October 17, or eight days earlier than a year ago), the tallest player ever was Romania?s 7-7 Gheorghe Muresan (1993-97 Washington Bullets/1998-2000 New Jersey Nets).

    Next was the late Manute Bol (1985-88 Washington Bullets/1988-90 Golden State Warriors/1990-93 Philadelphia 76ers/1994 Miami Heat). A native of Sudan, Bol was officially measured and listed at 7-6.75 tall by the Guinness Book of World Records.

    At 7-6 were Shawn Bradley (1993-95 Philadelphia 76ers/1995-97 New Jersey Nets/Dallas 1997-2005 Dallas Mavericks), who was born to American parents in the former West Germany; Chinese icon Yao Ming (2002-11 Houston Rockets), the tallest player ever to suit up in an NBA All-Star Game and the tallest player ever to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

    At 7-5 were Sim Bhullar (April 2015 Sacramento Kings), a Canadian who was born in Toronto, Ontario and is the first NBA player of Indian descent); Chuck Nevitt (1982-1983, 1988-90 Houston Rockets/1984-85 Los Angeles Lakers/1985-88 Detroit Pistons/1991 Chicago Bulls/1993 San Antonio Spurs); Russian Pavel Podkolzin (2004-06 Dallas Mavericks); and Montenegrin Slavko Vranes (January 2004 Portland; he is said to have grown to 7-6 after his one-game NBA stint).

    It?s a tall story all right but like a 1977 song from American musician-composer Randy Newman, ?Short People? also have their day in the sun, even in the basketball scene.

    You can be six feet tall and yet be considered a ?small? player in a sport lorded over by hefty giants.

    Undersized Hoopsters like us do not stand a chance against a Gregory Slaughter, a 7-foot American-Filipino born in Cleveland, Ohio who played collegiately at the University of the Visayas in Cebu (the hometown of his mother) and later with the Ateneo de Manila University, or a June Mar Fajardo, a 6-11 mastodon from Cebu who is the best player in the local professional league today.

    Then again, there have been local or international competitions in the past for players below six feet.

    Among them was this international basketball tournament half-a-century ago where there was a leveled playing field.

    In 1967, the first Intercontinental basketball tournament was staged in Barcelona, Spain for players 5-11 or under.

    The Philippines finished third behind world powerhouse United States and host Spain.

    The Filipinos, who represented the Asian zone, were bannered by Edgardo Ocampo, Freddie Webb, Guillermo Manotoc, Joaquin Rojas Jr., Ernesto Morales, Danilo Florencio and Narciso Bernardo.

    Our boys defeated Brazil, the South American representative, and France, the European representative.
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  4. LVSL: How's Chinese frontliner Zhou Qi with the Rockets?

    Las Vegas Summer League (seeds 9-24)

    Philadelphia (1-2) vs. LA Lakers (1-2)

    July 13, 10:30 a.m. today Manila time at Thomas and Mack Center.

    No Markelle Fultz (left ankle sprain) for the 76ers but Lonzo Ball could be back for Lakers after missing previous game vs. Sacramento due to a sore groin.

    Earlier result: Denver 87- Houston 81

    Chinese frontliner Zhou Qi, the Rockets' second-round draft pick a year ago, had 4 points and 3 rebounds in 23 minutes as a starter.

    Overall, the 7-2, 21-year-old Qi, who inked a multi-year rookie pact with the Rockets last month, has averaged 6.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in four games in the LVSL, including a 17-point. 6-rebound effort in 25 minutes in a 102-99 win over Denver in his Rockets debut.
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  5. Harden Agrees to Richest Contract in NBA History

    Move over, Wardell Stephen Curry II, a two-time National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player (2015 and 2016) who on June 30 agreed to a new five-year, $201-million deal with the reigning league titlist Golden State Warriors.

    That?s because one week and a day later, the record for the richest contract in NBA history no longer belongs to him.

    Last July 8, Houston Rockets guard James Edward Harden Jr., accepted a four-year, ?super-maximum? contract extension that is projected to be worth $170 million or more and will guarantee him at least $228 million through the 2022-23 season. This will be the largest ever NBA contract extension.

    Adding the two years and $58.72 million remaining on his current pact with the Texas squad (which came about as a result of Harden?s inking a four-year, $118.1 million contract extension on July 9, 2016 with an early-termination option in the final year), the 6-5 guard will be earning $228 million (or more) over the next six seasons for the richest player contract in league history, surpassing Curry?s new deal that makes the 6-3 long-range bomber the first NBAer ever to reach the $200-million plateau.

    Harden, who turns 28 in August, will earn $28.299399 in 2017-18 and $30.421854 million in 2018-19.
    Depending on how the NBA salary cap escalates each year, Harden's annual stipend under the extension will vary although he is expected to bankroll $37.8 million in 2019-20.

    The salary upgrade will go up to $40.8 million in 2020-21, $43.8 million in 2021-22 and $46.8 million in 2022-23.

    Harden is taking advantage of a provision in the new labor contract (collective bargaining agreement), which takes effect starting the 2017-18 season, that allows contract extensions for top-tier players such as Harden.

    ?The Beard? became eligible to add four years to his current contract after securing a berth on one of the three All-NBA teams this past campaign.

    During the 2016-17 wars, the California-born Harden played point guard for the Rockets for the first time in his pro career under NBA Coach of the year Mike D?Antoni, pacing the NBA in assists (11.2 apg) and ranking second in scoring (29.1 ppg) while norming 8.1 rebounds in 81 appearances ? an eight-year career high in all three categories.

    Harden also placed second in the MVP polls for the second time in three years and was the lone unanimous selection on the All-NBA First Team in media balloting ? the third time in four years that the Arizona State product was a first-team pick following selections in 2014 and 2015.

    With the arrival of playmaker de luxe Chris Paul in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers in late June, Harden is likely to revert to his old role of 2-guard with the Rockets, who produced the third-best regular record (55-27) in the NBA last season.

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    Avery Antonio Bradley Jr., the final link to the Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett-Ray Allen Big 3 era in Beantown, became the scapegoat ? a salary cap casualty ? in the Boston Celtics? pursuit of Utah free agent Gordon Hayward.

    But there?s more work to do by the Celtics to help Hayward secure a maximum contract.

    Already Danny Ainge, the Celtics? president of basketball operations, has also pulled its qualifying offer to Kelly Olynyk (making the Canadian frontliner an unrestricted free agent and who has since inked a four-year, $50 million-plus deal with the Miami Heat). The club must likewise renounce veteran free agents Jonas Jerebko, James Young and Gerald Green, trade Terry Rozier, and then waive the non-guaranteed contract of Jordan Mickey. Additionally, it has another partially non-guaranteed pact in second-year point guard Demetrius Jackson, who could be waived or traded.

    Even then, the Celtics will still be about $300,000 shy of rewarding Hayward a maximum contract with a first-year salary of $29.444533.

    Could small forward Jae Crowder, who has three years and $21.9 million left in his contract, also be on the way out?

    The Celtics need to prepare for the impending free agency of All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas, who led the all East players in scoring last season with an NBA third-best 28.9-point average, in the summer of 2018 .Thomas, who has a year left on his contract, will attract huge offers from other teams if the 5-9 guard opts to try his luck in the open market. A contract extension may now be in the offing.

    The Celtics peddled seven-year veteran guard Avery Bradley Jr. (along with a 2019 second-round draft pick) to the Detroit Pistons (for Marcus Morris) to clear salary-cap space in preparation for the entry of Hayward and his proposed four-year, $128-million maximum deal, possibly through a sign-and-trade agreement with the Jazz.

    Bradley, who had ...
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