As one of best defensive players of his generation, Gary Payton knows what it takes to thrive on that end of the floor.
In one of the tightest races for defensive player of the year in quite some time, the nine-time All-Star told The Associated Press that he is leaning toward Golden State’s Draymond Green ever so slightly over San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard.
“I would rather both of them win. But I think Draymond has done a great job of helping Golden State endure the changes that they’ve had,” said Payton, who does not have an official vote. “He’s been stepping up and making a lot of big plays. Not that Kawhi hasn’t been doing that, but I think Draymond really deserves to win defensive player of the year.”
The winner will not be announced until the NBA’s first awards show after the Finals. But Green, Leonard and Utah’s Rudy Gobert are the three main candidates. Green and Leonard will both be in action during the playoffs on Saturday, with the Warriors trying to take a 3-0 lead over the Portland Trail Blazers and Leonard’s Spurs hoping to bounce back from a Game 3 loss in Memphis on Thursday night.
Payton grew up in Oakland, the city that Green calls home with the Warriors. The outspoken stars also host an internet trash talking show, but Payton said he would never play favorites when making his decision.
He lauded Leonard, the two-time defending winner.
“He guards all the best players,” Payton said. “He can hawk the ball. He’s so long, that he can steal the ball from you one-on-one up top and makes the player he’s defending get rid of the ball.”
But he said Green gets the slight edge because his performance has also helped Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson become better defenders.
“He changed the Golden State tone this year,” Payton said. “He’s a bigger presence on his team and he deserves it.”
Here’s a look at Saturday’s games:
Spurs at Grizzlies, San Antonio leads 2-1. Game 4, 8 p.m., ESPN.
NEED TO KNOW: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich used an ugly start to the third quarter of Game 3 as a teachable moment, pulling his starters when they gave up the first five points of the second half. Asked if Popovich was sending a message saying he was disappointed after the loss, Danny Green said he can only sometimes know what the coach is thinking. “He’s good at what he does, and he gets the best out of us,” Green said. “It might be. I don’t know.”
KEEP AN EYE ON: Turnovers. The Spurs have turned it over 24 times since halftime of Game 2, including 12 in losing Game 3. Memphis turned those mistakes into 13 points while taking very good care of the ball. The Grizzlies had only two of their five turnovers through the first three quarters.
INJURY UPDATE: Grizzlies defensive star Tony Allen was out of his walking boot on Friday, but still remains out indefinitely with a strained right calf.
PRESSURE IS ON: The Grizzlies. Even after a convincing win in Game 3 to get back in the series, losing at home in Game 4 would put them right on the brink of elimination going back to San Antonio. Win, and the pressure shifts squarely to the No. 2 seed in the West.
Raptors at Bucks, Milwaukee leads 2-1. Game 4, 3 p.m., TNT.
NEED TO KNOW: The young Bucks went into the series playing the “chip on shoulder” card against the more experienced Raptors. They’ve flipped the script after dismantling Toronto in Game 3. The performance should feed another eager crowd in Game 4. Now the Raptors look like the underdogs in the series.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Bucks movement away from ball. Milwaukee had 29 assists on 39 field goals, in part due to the extra defensive attention drawn by a href=’https://apnews.com/823d845d717d46c598f7b9bcf265ed80/Bucks’-Giannis-picking-up-the-point-from-NBA-great-Kidd’Giannis Antetokounmpo/a. That opened up more room to move the ball to open shooters on the perimeter and cutters going to the basket. Khris Middleton’s hot start from the field also helped spread the floor.
INJURY UPDATE: None of note.
PRESSURE IS ON: DeMar DeRozan. The Raptors star was held to eight points and missed all eight shots from the field in Game 3. The chances of that happening again seem slim, but DeRozan and backcourt mate Kyle Lowry have to produce to avoid a 3-1 hole heading back to Toronto.
Wizards at Hawks, Washington leads 2-0. Game 3, 5:30 p.m., TNT.
NEED TO KNOW: The bad blood between these two teams has been evident from the start. John Wall has made no secret that he wasn’t happy with Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder’s crowing after the Hawks eliminated the Wizards two years ago, and Wall has excelled so far. He has averaged 32 points and 11.5 assists and snarled at Schroder after a breakaway dunk . Schroder likes to yap as much as the next guy, but Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer wants his mercurial point guard to stay away from the trash talk.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Turnovers. Atlanta is throwing away too many possessions by being sloppy with the ball. The Hawks gave up the ball 19 times in Game 1, followed by 18 turnovers in Game 2. They can’t surrender that many possessions if they’re going to have any chance of turning this series around.
INJURY UPDATE: Wizards center Ian Mahinmi is out for at least the next two games with a strained left calf.
PRESSURE IS ON: Dwight Howard. The Hawks center has taken only 11 shots in two games and is averaging 6.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 24.5 minutes, a far cry from his career postseason averages of 19.1 points, 14.1 rebounds and 37.7 rebounds entering these playoffs. He was clearly frustrated at being stuck on the bench for much of the fourth quarter in Game 2.
Warriors at Trail Blazers. Golden State leads 2-0. Game 3, 10:30 p.m., ESPN.
NEED TO KNOW: Kevin Durant’s a href=’https://apnews.com/3079a1857caf4895af7a00b351635d02/Kevin-Durant-still-questionable-for-playoff-Game-3-Saturday’status for the game/a is questionable, even though he posted a video to his YouTube channel on Thursday night saying he’s hopeful he can play. Steve Kerr added intrigue to the situation when suggested that being up 2-0 “could” impact his decision to play Durant. “If he’s ready to play, he’s going to play,” Kerr said. “But if there’s any question, then we won’t play him. We’ve got to get him healthy. As for Portland, big man a href=’https://apnews.com/4aee866aa48c44a0b0126b7f61d95c85/Blazers-big-man-Nurkic-upgraded-to-‘doubtful’-for-Game-3’Jusuf Nukic/a was upgraded to “doubtful” for Game 3, which means he’s still unlikely to play.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Warriors reserve JaVale McGee. He picked up the slack with Durant and Shaun Livingston out, coming off the bench to score 15 points in Game 2. Look for the Warriors to turn to the big man again, especially with Nurkic out and the Blazers going small.
INJURY UPDATE: In addition to Durant, Matt Barnes (right ankle/foot sprain), and Shaun Livingston (right index finger sprain) are questionable for the Warriors.
PRESSURE IS ON: The Blazers as a group to pull out at least a face-saving victory at home. They’re still the underdogs by far, but will the Rip City faithful at Moda Center help close the series gap? “It’s not like we’re down 3-0,” Damian Lillard said Friday. “We got an opportunity to take care of our home floor and tomorrow will be the start.”
AP Sports Writers Teresa M. Walker in Memphis, Genaro Armas in Milwaukee, Janie McCauley in Oakland, Anne M. Peterson in Portland, Howard Fendrich in Washington and Paul Newberry in Atlanta contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show that the Wizards are playing at the Hawks.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump waded into France’s upcoming elections Friday, saying he believes an attack on police officers this week will help Marine Le Pen, the far-right presidential candidate.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Trump said that while he is not explicitly endorsing Le Pen, the attack played to her strengths.
“She’s the strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France,” Trump said in the Oval Office interview. “Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election.”
U.S. presidents typically avoid weighing in on specific candidates running in overseas election. But Trump suggested his opinion was no different from an average observer, saying, “Everybody is making predictions on who is going to win. I’m no different than you.”
Sunday’s vote is the first round in the French elections, with the top two candidates advancing to a winner-takes-all runoff on May 7. The high-stakes contest is viewed as something of a vote on the future of the European Union, with Le Pen calling for a referendum on France’s membership in the bloc.
Le Pen has also echoed some of Trump’s hard-line rhetoric on immigration, calling for hardening French borders to stanch what she describes as an out-of-control flow of immigrants.
She has spoken of radical Muslims trying to supplant France’s Judeo-Christian heritage and, among other measures, has called for foreigners suspected of extremism to be expelled from the country.
Le Pen, a 48-year-old mother of three, has distanced herself from her father, National Front party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has been convicted of crimes related to anti-Semitism and mocked the Holocaust as a “detail” of history.
Nevertheless, earlier this month she denied the French state was responsible for the roundup of Jews during World War II, drawing condemnation from other presidential candidates and Israel’s Foreign Ministry. And her inner circle still includes old friends from her student days in Paris who were members of a radical group known for violence and anti-Semitism.
Former President Barack Obama has also gotten involved in France’s election, offering centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron his best wishes in a phone call Thursday, though he, too, stopped short of a full endorsement.
Macron’s team released a video recording of the call, a highly unusual move as conversations among different countries’ politicians are usually kept private.
A victory for Macron would be a vote of confidence in France staying in the EU. Obama, when he was in office, encouraged Britain not to leave, though it ultimately voted to do so anyway.
Trump backed Britain’s decision to exit from the EU and has also predicted that other countries would make similar decisions. Yet during a White House news conference Thursday, the president said he believed in a strong Europe.
“A strong Europe is very, very important to me as president of the United States,” he said.
Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island’s largest city has given first passage to a sweeping new ordinance that would ban racial profiling by police and establish strict controls on how officers conduct traffic and pedestrian stops.
The Providence City Council voted 12-0 in favor of the bill, which some police leaders have warned will tie officers’ hands. Three council members were absent from Thursday’s vote.
Council members who sponsored it call it “one of the most progressive pieces of legislation in the United States.”
The bill will need to be passed a second time before it can be sent to Democratic Mayor Jorge Elorza, who has said he will sign it. The council president said the second vote won’t be scheduled until the state attorney general reviews the ordinance.
The ordinance would, among numerous provisions, limit the use of a gang database and provide protections based on gender identity English-language ability, political affiliation and someone’s housing status or medical conditions. And it would give more power to a civilian review board to look at alleged police misconduct. It would also bar the arrest of someone whose only crime is driving without a license.
People subjected to any violation of the ordinance would be allowed to sue for damages.
A civil rights attorney who worked on a similar ordinance in New York City said Providence’s goes beyond what other cities have done, including for immigrants fearing deportation.
“It’s one of the broader protections against discriminatory profiling I’ve seen,” Andrea Ritchie said. “The provision specifying no arrest for driving without a license is particularly important.”
In 2013, the New York City Council overrode vetoes from then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg to pass an ordinance creating aggressive checks on police, including a new watchdog and easier standards for people to file profiling lawsuits.
Local advocacy groups in Providence have been pushing since 2014 to pass their own police accountability measure, known as the Community Safety Act, but only recently were activists and top city officials able to come to an agreement on its language.
“We did compromise a lot,” said activist Vanessa Flores-Maldonado.
Also fueling city leaders to take up their cause was a string of cellphone videos showing officers using force on black and Latino residents. The police department responded by disciplining some officers. It has also sought to diversify its 400-member force, which is about 75 percent white in a city that’s 36 percent white.
The police union remains adamantly opposed.
“The Community Safety Act is not a community meaning the residents of the city of Providence,” said the head of the union, Sgt. Robert Boehm. “It’s a small community of people and quite a few of them have an agenda — a dislike or distrust of police to begin with.”
Boehm said some community concerns are legitimate, but the ordinance’s requirements would make it hard for officers to do their jobs. As examples, he cited a requirement that would make officers write up a report on every pedestrian stop, which the pedestrian could later look up at the police station, and a prohibition on relying on family members as language interpreters.
Boehm said city leaders were rushing to pass it as a “parting gift” to one of the ordinance’s champions, indicted City Councilman Kevin Jackson. Jackson has pleaded not guilty to embezzlement charges and faces a recall election on May 2.
Ritchie said it is important that elected leaders are backing the effort.
“What’s really strong about the Providence legislation is it’s done by the city council,” said Ritchie, as opposed to an internal policy change “that can be rescinded by the next police commissioner.”
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Forget the octagon, Ronda Rousey is buzzing about a ring after announcing her engagement to fellow MMA fighter Travis Browne.
Rousey flashed the diamond and made the announcement in a paparazzi video shared by TMZ Sports . Browne says in the video that he popped the question under a waterfall in New Zealand last week.
The 30-year-old Rousey says they plan to get married “soon,” but that they’re just in the beginning stages of planning a wedding.
Rousey also doesn’t have a date for her next fight. She suffered a humiliating defeat to Amanda Nunes in December in a comeback bid after losing her UFC title to Holly Holm in 2015.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Prosecutors say an Alaska dentist charged with Medicaid fraud pulled a sedated patient’s tooth while riding a hoverboard.
Seth Lookhart was charged with 17 counts of Medicaid fraud after prosecutors say he billed Medicaid $1.8 million last year for IV sedation used in procedures that didn’t call for it.
Prosecutors say in an indictment that investigators found a video on Lookhart’s phone of him riding a hoverboard while extracting a sedated patient’s tooth. They say he texted the video to his office manager and joked that it was a “new standard of care.” Prosecutors say investigators contacted the patient and she told them she was unaware that Lookhart was riding the hoverboard while operating on her.
Lookhart’s attorney, Michael Moberly, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lookhart’s office manager is also charged in the case.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — For Syrian cook and entrepreneur Alia Adi, the kitchen is also a filming set. Here, she creates Arabic-language recipe videos, cooking food ranging from Middle Eastern specialties to all-around favorites like brownies and ice cream.
Adi is the founder and CEO of Basmaty World , an Arabic-language cooking channel on YouTube that she is transforming into a network that brings cooks from across the region under one brand. Basmaty generates around 1 million views per month on YouTube and has more than 300,000 followers on Facebook.
She is part of a growing group of entrepreneurs who have chosen Dubai as a ground for growing their business. Two of the region’s biggest success stories are based in Dubai. Valued at some $1 billion, ride-hailing app Careem and Souq.com, which was acquired by Amazon last month, have given the local entrepreneurship scene a boost.
Adi started her business in 2011 in her hometown of Damascus, Syria, working with a small team of videographers and Syrian chefs, known in the Middle East for producing some of the most complex and delicious Mediterranean dishes.
“As I was searching for recipes in Arabic, I saw that there was a gap, there was not much out there, so the idea emerged this way, “she said. “I decided why don’t I do a website that provides reliable and high-quality recipes in Arabic to serve the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.”
Soon after the war erupted in Syria that same year, Adi left Damascus. To keep her business running, she quickly taught herself how to shoot and edit videos featuring herself as a passionate cook.
For Adi, cooking means potentially big business with lucrative deals. In 2014, Japan’s recipe portal Cookpad acquired Lebanese cooking site Shahiya for a reported $13.5 million.
Adi’s videos take hard work behind the scenes, including collaborating with brands for recipe creation and product placement.
She spends hours shooting video and photos of her recipe creations, before editing and posting the mouth-watering final results for her more than 180,000 subscribers on YouTube.
On this particular shoot, Adi whips up a popular Levantine dip called lebnah, made fresh from yoghurt she strained overnight. She chops pistachios and apricots before drizzling honey on one lebnah dish. On another, she adds chopped olives, sun-dried tomatoes drenched in olive oil, and more olive oil for good measure.
Adi says she has saved thousands of dollars in licensing fees and other government-related costs for her business thanks to help from In5, a government-backed incubator that assists entrepreneurs. In5 also offers Dubai-based entrepreneurs access to work space, training and mentorship programs, networking events and investors.
“I think one of the major challenges for young entrepreneurs here is related to funding… because ideas, there are a lot of ideas. There’s a lot of creativity,” she said.
Adi initially relocated to London after leaving Syria, but despite it being easier and cheaper to establish her business there, she settled on Dubai to be closer to her customers and clients.
“Dubai for me was the best location to do that. It’s the country that provides most value for me, as a startup,” she said. “Leaving Syria, I was looking for somewhere stable where I could continue and grow my business so Dubai was definitely the number one option.”
Follow Aya Batrawy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ayaelb