NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Parker not opposed to leaving Spurs one day — Much like teammates Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, point guard Tony Parker seems destined to join that duo as a life-long Spur. But Parker, responding to an ESPN.com report that says the Knicks have interest in pursuing him once he becomes a free agent in 2015, isn’t so sure he’d stick with San Antonio no matter the cost. While Parker says staying with the Spurs is his top choice, he told the San Antonio Express-News‘ Jabari Young that he’s also open to testing the free-agent waters should things not work out as he hopes in San Antonio:
Tony Parker to the New York Knicks?
Unlikely, but Parker wouldn’t rule it out. In fact, he wouldn’t rule out going anywhere if certain circumstances aren’t in place.
A report last week by ESPN.com said the Knicks hope to target the All-Star point guard in 2015, when Parker is set to become a free agent. Told of the report, Parker smiled and said he hadn’t seen it, but is keeping all his options open.
Parker made it clear though, his first choice it to remain in San Antonio as long as he could.
“If I can yeah”, Parker told the San Antonio Express-News. “The history here, they always take care of the guys. They did it with [Tim Duncan] and Manu [Ginobili], so hopefully they take care of me. At the end of this year they have to guarantee my year after, so, technically, maybe, I’ll be a free agent this summer.”
The 31-year-old Parker, who is averaging 17.8 points and 6.0 assists this season, signed a four-year, $50 million extension in 2010. He is owed $25 million in the last two years of his contract, but the final year is partially guaranteed for $3.5 million if he is waived by June 30, 2014 and fully guaranteed for $12.5 million after that.
Said Parker: “I just don’t want a guarantee, I want an extension, too.”
Even if Parker remains in San Antonio for the final year, his decision to stay beyond 2014-15 will depend on his coach and teammates.
Who knows when Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will hang it up, though it may not be too far away, and Duncan has a $10 million player option next season, which is the final year of his deal. Will he be around beyond that?
“I want to stay positive,” Parker said, “but if it doesn’t work out, then it doesn’t work out. My wish is to stay here and play my whole career here, but if there is no more Pop or Timmy or Manu, I’m not against going somewhere. I’m not against that.”
Parker being targeted is nothing new, though, and he always expresses his desire to remain in San Antonio for the remainder of his career. But what if the Spurs and Parker don’t reach an extension, would Parker seek a trade?
“I don’t even think like that because I think Pop and [Spurs General Manger R.C. Buford] they always take care of their guys,” Parker responded. “They did it with Timmy and Manu, so I don’t see no reason why they’re not gonna do it with me.”
No. 2: Durant shows fire in win over Rockets — In late October, Kevin Durant told The Oklahoman he wasn’t going to be as ‘obsessed’ about winning a championship as he was a season ago. The Houston Rockets would like to argue otherwise. Durant, in the Thunder’s first game against a contender since losing Russell Westbrook (again), simply dominated on Sunday night against Houston. OKC’s star was going full-tilt, as usual, on offense, but as longtime Thunder observer Darnell Mayberry notes, there was an added passion to Durant’s game:
Perry Jones III hadn’t been in the game 90 seconds.
But Kevin Durant didn’t like what he was seeing.
And so the Thunder star called over his second-year teammate, pulling him off the lane during a free-throw attempt despite OKC owning a 15-point lead.
“Wake your (blankety blank) up,” Durant barked at Jones near the scorer’s table.
No one needed to give Durant a wake-up call.
But it wasn’t just the numbers that defined Durant’s night.
It was the pep in his step, the look in his eyes and the fire and intensity with which he played. He took his game to a higher level Sunday in a showdown he knows could turn into a playoff rematch this spring.
From chewing out an up-and-coming teammate to a second-quarter stare down of old nemesis Francisco Garcia when things got too physical on the low block, Durant was dialed in the whole way.
He harassed an official when he drew a foul call and it was called on Terrence Jones instead of Dwight Howard.
He squawked at the Rockets bench after hitting a jumper over former teammate James Harden, a play he orchestrated the entire way when he called for a screen that would force Harden to switch and be left isolated on the right wing.
“He feel like he got to come and set the tone, and he doing that,” said Kendrick Perkins. “I’m liking the mean KD; giving stare downs when he’s dunking on people. I’m rolling with that.”
Durant, meanwhile, is too politically correct to speak on it publicly, and so he downplayed the source of his efforts after the game. But all throughout the summer, when Houston commanded the league’s attention with its blockbuster acquisition of Howard and caused many to wonder whether the Rockets had surpassed the Thunder, Durant grew testy each time the topic was brought up. The focus, Durant always said, should be on the Thunder. That’s the way he wanted to keep it.
With Sunday’s performance, Durant did his part to make sure it stayed that way.
No. 3: Bynum’s suspension opens up minutes for Bennett — ICYMI somehow over the weekend, things aren’t going so great for the Cavaliers in their attempts to restart Andrew Bynum‘s career. On Saturday, the team suspended him for conduct detrimental to the team and by Sunday, rumors were swirling that the Clippers and Heat were interested in landing the one-time All-Star center. As Cleveland navigates its future with Bynum, one player who could benefit from the fallout is rookie Anthony Bennett, writes Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal. Lloyd has info on that, plus some news on what is next for the Cavs and Bynum, too:
Andrew Bynum’s removal from the Cavaliers clears two spots in Mike Brown’s rotation. One will go to Tyler Zeller, the other to Anthony Bennett.
The top pick in the draft has played sparingly to this point, but no longer. The Cavs are committing significant minutes to Bennett moving forward, which is why Mike Brown acknowledged Sunday that he needs to give Bennett time to play through inevitable mistakes.
“I have to continue trying to have patience with him,” Brown said. “This is an opportunity for him to go out and play some minutes and show what he’s capable of doing.”
After saying that, he only played Bennett 11 minutes in the 108-104 overtime loss Sunday to the Golden State Warriors after playing him 19 minutes in the loss to the Boston Celtics on Saturday.
“I’m still clueless about this whole thing,” Bennett said. “I’m still trying to learn a lot. I can still learn from my teammates, from the coaching staff, watching film. I just feel like this whole league is all about learning, just going out and playing.”
He has played a fraction of the minutes other top picks in last summer’s draft are receiving. The Cavs hope more consistent minutes will mean more production.
Brown has juggled Bennett’s role from power forward to small forward and now back to power forward, which seems to have further confused the rookie. When he switched Bennett back to power forward, Brown said there is still the possibility he could see minutes on the wing. For right now, Brown likes some of the things Bennett is doing away from the ball. He just wants the rookie to slow down and show some composure when he has the ball.
In terms of Bynum, it looks like the Cavs will have to move quickly on a trade if they want to spare themselves having to pay the majority of Bynum’s salary this season:
Bynum’s suspension was lifted Sunday, but he is still excused from all team activities. He was docked one game’s pay (roughly $110,000). The Cavs have until Jan. 7 to trade or release him or they will be responsible for the balance of his $12 million deal.
If they can’t find a deal by Jan. 7, a league source confirmed the team is considering holding onto him anyway. They would have until June 30 to trade or release him before his $12 million deal for next season becomes guaranteed.
Bynum’s locker hadn’t been cleaned out yet at Quicken Loans Arena. Among the items left behind was a pair of headphones. He is also still part of the pregame introduction video. The team did not hand out his Fathead on Sunday, as was previously scheduled. They also did not hand out game-day programs, called “Tipoff Tonight,” because he was featured on the cover.
To make up for the Fathead issue, kids 14 and under received a certificate to redeem for future Fathead packs.
No. 4: Redick nearing return for Clips? — As one of the marquee additions to the team in the offseason, the Clippers’ J.J. Redick got off to a solid start for Los Angeles before a torn ligament in his wrist sidelined him for 6-8 weeks in early December. He’s been rehabbing the injury ever since and Clippers coach Doc Rivers tells Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times that Redick could be on his way back to the lineup soon:
Clippers rookie swingman Reggie Bullock, who is out with a sprained right ankle, has been working out and is making progress.
Coach Doc Rivers said Bullock shot some during the team’s shoot-around before Saturday night’s game against Utah.
“Yeah, he’s getting closer,” Rivers said.
J.J. Redick, who is out with a broken right hand and torn ligaments on the right side of his wrist, now has a soft cast on his hand and not the hard cast anymore.
Redick, a right-handed shooter, has not been shooting the ball yet.
“He’s close too, would be my guess,” Rivers said. “I think it’s a couple of weeks, maybe.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Blazers rookie C.J. McCollum is getting closer and closer to his NBA debut … The Knicks might be closing in on a deal with big man Jeremy Tyler, a move that could result in the cutting of Chris Smith … The Wizards’ Bradley Beal is a much better shooter when Marcin Gortat is on the court … Blake Griffin has been playing some MVP-type basketball the last few games …
ICYMI Of The Night: Maybe there are times now, what with Russell Westbrook being injured, that Kevin Durant misses his old teammate James Harden. But he made a point to see him up close again when he dunked on him last night …