Conte ‘only just started’ at Chelsea

first_imgChelsea can keep improving after winning the Premier League title and will try to retain their best players, says manager Antonio Conte.The Blues became champions of England for a sixth time with a 1-0 victory over West Brom on Friday.Conte, 47, has been linked with the vacant Inter Milan job, while there is speculation over the future of striker Diego Costa and playmaker Eden Hazard.”If you can continue with these players you can improve a lot,” said Conte.The former Juventus and Italy boss led Chelsea, who finished 10th last year, to the title in his first season in charge.Reports in Italy suggest Chinese-backed Serie A club Inter are prepared to offer Conte £250,000 a week if he leaves Stamford Bridge one season into a three-year deal. The Italian said he and his squad had only “started to do our work”.”Now they know my idea, I know them, the characteristics of my players, and we can improve,” he added.Belgium international Hazard, 26, has been linked with Real Madrid, while Spain forward Costa, 28, was left out of a game at Leicester in January after a disagreement with a fitness coach, amid widespread reports of interest from Chinese clubs.”The club want to fight to win every competition – we have the same ambition,” said Conte.”For this reason we try to keep the best players.” Chelsea have two Premier League fixtures remaining – against Watford and Sunderland – before facing Arsenal in the FA Cup final at Wembley on 27 May.Conte’s speculation ‘more rumours than reality’Guus Hiddink took interim charge of Chelsea last season, with the club 16th in the Premier League and one point above the relegation zone following the departure of manger Jose Mourinho.The Dutchman, who led the side to a 10th-place finish, met with Conte at the end of that season.Hiddink described the Italian as “a man who had already achieved a lot before he came to Chelsea” and that winning the title was a “confirmation of his attitude, professionalism and energy”.On speculation linking Conte with a move to Italy, Hiddink told BBC Radio 5 live’s Sportsweek: “There are always rumours coming up but I think the club is very stable. It is a huge club to work for, perfect circumstances and very ambitious people everywhere. “It’s more rumour than reality.”Former England and Arsenal striker Ian Wright: “The way he has got players playing, Victor Moses, Willian etc is incredible – he’s kept the whole squad happy.”There’s been no red cards, discipline has been very good, and the amount of consistency through not changing players so often has kept the players together.”Conte has also got that assured calmness – not so much on the pitch but behind the scenes.”Former England and Newcastle striker Alan Shearer: “Antonio Conte’s passion and enthusiasm has filtered down to all his players all season. “The big change was the shift in the system after they lost to Liverpool and were beaten 3-0 by Arsenal at the Emirates. They were playing four at the back and it wasn’t working at all so he had to do something.”They went to a back three, changed a couple of players, and then won 13 games on the spin, which was an incredible turnaround for a team that had struggled.”They’ve certainly benefited without being in Europe by making only 38 line-up changes, the fewest in the league, so they’ve used that to their advantage.”There is a case for mentioning all their players but I’ve got to pick out Cesar Azpilicueta, who has played every minute of every league game and turned in an eight or nine out of 10 performance every time.”last_img read more

Lonzo Ball’s inconsistent fourth-quarter role not an issue in Lakers’ locker room

first_imgWalton has already had to defend his handling of Ball in light of criticism from LaVar Ball, who has said on multiple occasions that his son would find a rhythm and lead the Lakers to more wins if he played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter.A certain irony can be found in the chasm between how LaVar Ball wants Walton to coach his son and how he is actually doing it. Beyond LaVar, Lonzo Ball might have no greater advocate than his head coach.On Friday, Walton said he believes Ball, who is shooting 32.1 percent from the field and is averaging 8.6 points per game, is capable of become a top scorer in the NBA – something many have begun to doubt based on early returns.Walton pointed to Ball’s unique skills in transition and how, on his best nights, he is able to get to the rim.“He’s got such a good knack for getting those shots,” Walton said. “You add that with the ability that I think he’s going to be a fine NBA 3-point shooter as well. It makes for the ability to be a very good scorer.“I think he’ll always want to pass first, which will also lead to him having scoring opportunities because defenders are going to be more worried about guarding their own man.”Walton said he has not seen Ball suffer any ill effects from the fluctuating minutes, which is consistent with the image of the rookie as unperturbed by any of the twaddle surrounding him.“He was on the bench supporting his teammates,” Walton said. “He was in the locker room after the game laughing with the guys. I know he wants to be on the court, and he’s really good at finishing games. He proved that in (Thursday’s win in) Philly.“But part of being on a team is being happy for your teammates when they’re having success.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error NEW YORK — If anyone other than a certain parent objects to Lonzo Ball’s minutes during the fourth quarter of Lakers games, they aren’t saying it.“That’s what the team is for,” Lonzo Ball said after the Lakers pulled away from the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday to win 110-99 while Ball and starting center Brook Lopez watched from the bench in the final period.The Lakers outscored Charlotte 34-24, and sixth man Jordan Clarkson capably handled point guard responsibilities while scoring 14 of his team-high 22 points.“When JC came in, he was cookin’ tonight,” Ball said following the win. “We rolled with him, and I’m glad we did.”center_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersThe exclusion of Ball from fourth-quarter activities is bound to draw attention, however. Coach Luke Walton, who routinely defends his point guard’s development, bristled at another question about leaving Ball on the bench, a lineup decision he has made on several other occasions this season.“Lots of people don’t play in the fourth,” Walton said. “And … reporters only point out that Lonzo doesn’t play.”Walton pointed to Lopez, who was kept out in the fourth in Charlotte after scoring 13 points through three quarters, as well as starting shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who was on the floor late Saturday but on other nights has been on the bench in crunch time.Those two players account for $40 million in salary. Walton is right, their occasional absences are not in line with preseason expectations. However, they do not have cheerleaders with a national platform clamoring for a larger fourth-quarter role, as Ball does in the form of his father LaVar.“There’s lots of starters who aren’t playing in the fourth,” Walton said. “Depending on how the group (on the floor) goes. We’ve got a lot of players who are very similar in what they can do, as far as where they’re at in their careers, and if someone’s going we’re going to let them go.”last_img read more