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Korea to unite the peninsula for Games

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The combined Koreas women’s basketball team reached the Asian Games final, giving one of the sentimental favorites a chance at a historic gold medal.

A favorite in another sport won’t get the chance at gold, though, after defending field hockey champion India was upset later Thursday in a shootout against Malaysia.

The setback for India was cushioned slightly by more gold medals in track and field, where the Indian team finished behind only China and Bahrain in one of the surprising stories of the games.

The feel-good story undoubtedly has been the joint squad of nine South Koreans and three players from North Korea who will play for gold against China in women’s hoops.

Unlike the joint Koreas women’s hockey team that won plenty of hearts but no games at the Olympics in Pyeongchang six months ago, this joint team had been expected to be a medal contender — considered the most likely in the three sports in which the war-separated countries fielded combined teams.

Reinforced by WNBA center Park Ji-su, the Koreas team beat Taiwan 89-66 in the semifinals to avenge a two-point loss in their group game. China beat Japan 86-74 in the second of the semifinals.

Dragon boat races delivered a gold medal and two bronze medals for the combined Koreas teams — the first ever at a major multi-sports international event — and the basketball team is guaranteed gold or silver.

Park joined the combined team after completing her season with the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA and finished the game with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

North Korean player Ro Suk Yong, captain Lim Yung-hui and Park Hye-jin had 17 points apiece.

“This is a result that everyone achieved by playing together with one goal and one spirit,” Ro was quoted as saying by Yonhap, the South Korean news agency. “As we stay united, we went to the final. It makes me emotional.”

The medals in dragon boat were awarded to Korea — the name for the joint teams — rather than being added to the tally of either North or South Korea.

The Koreas, still technically at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice, have fielded 60 athletes in combined teams in canoeing, rowing and basketball, besides larger contingents for their respective national squads.

South Korea was in third place in the medal standings after 389 events and North Korea was ninth, both well behind China, which had 111 gold medals and 239 overall. Japan was second with 59 gold and 174 in total.

Unlike their dominance in the pool, China and Japan had plenty of competition in track and field, where China narrowly topped the standings.

China and Bahrain were level in terms of gold — with 12 each — but China was ahead 33-25 overall.

India finished third with seven track gold medals and 19 overall — one ahead of Japan on both counts.

In the last event, the men’s 4×400-meter relay, Qatar won in a continental record 3 minutes, 0.56 seconds from India and Japan.

Jinson Johnson of India won the 1,500, and the country’s 4×400 women’s relay, including world junior champion Hima Das, extended a streak of Asian Games gold in the event stretching back to 2002.

Japan, the 2016 Olympic silver medalists, won the men’s 4×100 relay in 38.16. Surprisingly it was an Indonesia team featuring world junior 100-meter champion Lalu Muhammad Zohri which delighted the crowd by finishing with silver ahead of China.

Bahrain won three gold medals on the last night of track, with 100- and 200-meter champion Edidiong Odiong anchoring victory in the women’s 4×100 relay in a games record 42.73.

Olga Rypakova of Kazakhstan, the 2012 Olympic champion, won her third straight Asian Games title in the triple jump.

The men’s field hockey final was expected to be an India-Pakistan classic, but they’ll be playing for bronze. Malaysia rallied to win 7-6 in a shootout after finishing 2-2 with India, and Japan edged Pakistan 1-0 in the other semifinal. The winner here gets a spot at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

A China team featuring NBA players Zhou Qi and Ding Yanyuhang will play the men’s basketball final against Iran, which beat defending champion South Korea.

Basketball

Mike Conley and Bradley Beal Win Noble and Respected Awards

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Mike Conley and Bradley Beal are two of the most admired players in the league not just for what they do on the court, but for what they do off the court as well.

Mike Conley received the Sportsmanship and Teammate of the Year Award at the 2019 NBA Awards Show taking home the Sportsmanship Award for the third time in his career (2014, 2016, 2019) and the Teammate of the Year award for the first time.

In Conley’s twelve-year stint with the Memphis Grizzlies, he never once was issued a technical foul and has been known as an all-around great teammate in the locker room and both on and off the court to go along with his tremendous scoring, exceptional passing and lock down defense.

Conley received these awards because he is loved by his teammates and respected by his opponents and those traits will continue to progress as Conley joins the Utah Jazz for the 2019-2020 season.

Bradley Beal received the NBA Cares Community Assist Award at the NBA Awards for his generosity and charitable work in his community.

Beal is the second Wizards player in the last four years to win the honor with John Wall, who presented him the award, taking home the trophy in 2015-2016.

While also having one of his best seasons of his young career averaging 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and being selected to his second All-Star game, Beal made time to give back to his community.

Working with Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Northeast Washington, Beal visited the school in December and gave out two pairs of shoes to each player and coach on the basketball teams.

Over the holiday season, Beal donated game tickets to different community groups and gave toys to the Salvation army.

Beal took part in many other various types of charitable work over the year and continues to be a role model for kids in the community and around the world.

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Basketball

Jon Horst Wins Executive of the Year Award

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The Milwaukee Bucks General Manager, Jon Horst, was named NBA Executive of the Year at the NBA Awards. In doing so, Horst became just the second Bucks general manager win the award, joining John Hammond who won in 2010.

The Bucks named Horst the general manager in 2017 making him one of the youngest executives in the NBA.

A year later Horst assembled a team that had best record in the NBA and won prestigious awards for their accomplishments such as MVP (Giannis Antetokounmpo) and Coach of the Year (Mike Budenholzer).

Horst began the season by hiring veteran coach Mike Budenholzer and deciding to not overpay the former number two overall pick, Jabari Parker.

Instead, Horst made moves during the season to acquire key role players such as Brook Lopez, George Hill and Nikola Mirotic, which ultimately improved the team.

The Bucks made it to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2001 and in Horst’s two seasons as general manager, the Bucks are 104-60 overall and have made the playoffs in both seasons.

With Horst’s third season as general manager coming up, it will be interesting to see what other moves are made to try and avenge the Bucks loss in the Eastern Conference Finals and reach the NBA Finals for their third time in franchise history.

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Basketball

Mike Budenholzer Wins NBA Coach of the Year Award

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For the second time in his career, coach Mike Budenholzer was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year.

He first won the award in 2015, for his tremendous job of leading the Atlanta Hawks to a 60-22 record and a number one seed over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

This year, Budenholzer the Milwaukee Bucks, to a 60-22 record and the best record in the NBA for the first time since the 1973-74 season.

Budenholzer received 77 of 100 first place votes while Head Coach of the Denver Nuggets, Michael Malone received 13 of 100 and Head Coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, Doc Rivers received 6 of 100

The Milwaukee Bucks were a top five team on offense and defense this season which is a huge change from being ranked 15th on offense and 17th on defense last season.

Even though the Bucks lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the eventual NBA champion Toronto Raptors, the Bucks are still considered a favorite to make another title run next season, lead by Budenholzer and the MVP this year, Giannis Antetokounmpo.

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