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Slow-starting Rockets lose to Blazers; time for shakeup? (February 07, 2016)
Calvin Watkins [ Source: ESPN ]

Corey Brewer and Josh Smith of the Rockets can't seem to stop Damian Lillard from scoring for the Blazers in a 96-79 Portland rout on Saturday. AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

HOUSTON -- It might be time to break up the band. It's just time.

The Houston Rockets were beaten -- embarrassed really -- 96-79 by the Portland Trail Blazers during a sleepy Saturday afternoon at the Toyota Center.

Once again, a poor start hurt the Rockets, and unlike in Phoenix when interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff benched the starters, which sparked a victory, there was only so much he could do.

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Lillard scores 21 to help Portland beat Houston 96-79 (February 07, 2016)
Associated Press [ Source: ESPN ]

Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard, left, and Houston Rockets' Josh Smith (5) chase a loose ball in the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

HOUSTON -- The Portland Trail Blazers were determined that this trip to Houston would end much better than their last visit here when they were stung by a tough overtime loss to the Rockets.

That was clear from the beginning of this one. Damian Lillard had 21 points and 10 assists and the Trail Blazers built a big lead early and rolled to an easy 96-79 win over the Rockets on Saturday.

In their last game here they led by 15 in the fourth quarter before Houston rallied to force overtime and got a 108-103 win on the day coach Kevin McHale was fired in November.

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George Karl says focus remains on next game -- not job security (February 07, 2016)
Chris Forsberg [ Source: ESPN ]

NBA

BOSTON -- Sacramento Kings coach George Karl said he is focused on his team's next opponent -- not reports that his team is considering a coaching change.

Karl seemed amused by a string of questions about his future after he led the Kings through a 90-minute off-day workout Saturday at Harvard's Lavietes Pavilion, but he kept steering the conversation back to Sunday's game against the Boston Celtics.

"I don't have any control over what other people are thinking or saying. That's their storm," Karl said. "My preference would be it wouldn't be there. But there's always energy today. Then once something gets out, it magnifies and grows and becomes a storm. That's not my storm. My storm is the Boston Celtics."

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Cyrus Baguio and Dondon Hontiveros. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

Alaska teammates Cyrus Baguio and Dondon Hontiveros has won every possible title in the PBA.

There are six titles between the two wingmen–two Commissioner’s Cups and four Fiesta Cups—but in the near three decades combined they have been in the PBA–16 and 13 years for Hontiveros and Baguio, respectively– neither have won the coveted Philippine Cup.

Baguio and Hontiveros had a chance to finally get the All Filipino title against San Miguel but the Beermen dusted themselves off after a 0-3 start and aced the next four games for the so-called “Beeracle,”

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Mark Cuban cries foul on proposed change to rules (February 07, 2016)
Tom Haberstoh [ Source: ESPN ]

Mark Cuban is unconvinced that rule changes are needed to deal with intentional fouling of poor free throw shooters. Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says the "hack-a-player" strategy is entertaining for fans and that it would be a mistake if the league made changes to the rules.

On Friday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver told USA Today Sports that he was "increasingly of the view" that the league will implement new rules this summer to prevent intentional fouling of poor free throw shooters.

"At the end of the day," Silver said, "we are an entertainment property, and it's clear when you're in the arena that fans are looking at me shrugging their shoulders with that look saying, 'Aren't you going to do something about this?'"

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June Mar Fajardo of San Miguel Beer. ABSCBNNews.com photo

San Miguel coach Leo Austria believes that one factor that led to Alaska's downfall in the PBA Philippine Cup was that the Aces did not expect June Mar Fajardo to return all too sudden.

Fajardo, who has been averaging 24.6 points and 13.9 rebounds, missed the first three games of the best-of-seven series due to a knee injury he sustained in the semis. This allowed Alaska to take control of the shaded lane to erect a 3-0 lead in the title duel.

''After nung game sa semifinals, ramdam na ramdam ko yung team na napakababa ng morale because we lost June Mar,'' Austria told Radio dzMM's Fastbreak. ''Ang sabi ko 'Guys, we are the defending champions. With or without June Mar, we're capable of winning another championship.'''

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FIBA officials due to inspect OQT venue (February 07, 2016)
Tito Talao [ Source: Manila Bulletin ]

International Basketball

Two high-ranking FIBA officials, one from Geneva and the other a regional executive, will be arriving by the end of the month to check on the country’s preparations for the forthcoming FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament  (OQT) at the Mall of Asia Arena.

 The six-team Manila OQT will be held almost simultaneously with competitions in Turin and Belgrade from July 5-10 to pick the three winners that will earn tickets to   the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in August. The three cities were chosen in a draw ceremony at the House of Basketball in Mies, Switzerland last month.

The Philippines is bracketed in Group B world No. 5 France and New Zealand, the team formerly handled by Gilas coach Tab Baldwin. If they advance to the semis, the Nationals will face one of the top two Group A teams from among Turkey, Canada and Senegal for a place in the final and a shot at an Olympic berth.

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D-League

Coming back from a 0-3 series deficit is a tough deal for San Miguel, which is why coach Leo Austria would prefer his team not to go through the same path again.

The Beermen made history by becoming the first team ever to successfully comeback from such deficit and a second straight PBA Philippine Cup title at the expense of the Alaska Aces.

''Mixed emotions ang nararamdaman ko hanggang ngayon. Hindi pa rin ako nakakatulog dahil iniisip ko papaanong nangyari itong dinanas namin eh. 'Di ko lubos maisip na magagawa namin ito,'' Austria told radio dzMM's Fast Break.

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Ayo assures Jeron 'will do everything for the team' (February 07, 2016)
Camille B. Naredo [ Source: ABS CBN News ]

 La Salle's Jeron Teng goes to the basket against UST's Karim Abdul in this file photo.

MANILA, Philippines – De La Salle University should be among the early favorites to win the UAAP men's basketball championship next season after luring head coach Aldin Ayo from Letran and bringing in new talent that includes Ben Mbala, Aljun Melecio, and potentially, Ricci Rivero.

Melecio, one of the best players and most explosive scorers in the UAAP juniors division, has already committed to La Salle, while Ayo said Rivero has done the same although the NCAA standout has yet to make a formal announcement.

Mbala, the athletic big man from Southwestern University in Cebu, is set to finally make his UAAP debut in Season 79 barring any more complications. La Salle still has solid holdovers from last season's team, including reigning Rookie of the Year Andrei Caracut and veteran guard Thomas Torres.

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Sputtering Kings contemplate removing George Karl (February 07, 2016)
Marc Stein [ Source: ESPN ]

NBA

The Sacramento Kings, increasingly concerned about their floundering play under George Karl, entered the weekend hoping to delay any decision about the coach's future until the All-Star break, according to the league sources.

But sources told ESPN that the nature of the team's 128-119 loss Friday night to Brooklyn -- Sacramento's sixth loss in seven games -- and the fallout it generated have the Kings contemplating an immediate coaching change.

The Kings (21-29) have three road games remaining before the break: Sunday in Boston, Monday in Cleveland and Wednesday in Philadelphia.

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