VIDEO: Highlights from Wednesday’s games
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Spurs won’t chase perfect home record — The San Antonio Spurs had to endure a fourth-quarter push by the New Orleans Pelicans, but held on last night to win 100-92. The victory moved the Spurs to 38-0 at AT&T Center this season, marking the best home start in NBA history to break the 37-0 record the Chicago Bulls compiled in 1995-96. Three home games stand between home court perfection, but in typical San Antonio fashion, going 41-0 at home means nothing to the Spurs. Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com has more:
Gregg Popovich’s blank stare on Wednesday previewed what he would say when asked what it meant for the San Antonio Spurs to run off their 38th consecutive home victory and set a record for the best home start in NBA history.
“Absolutely nothing,” Popovich said. “Maybe a cup of coffee. Maybe.”
While observers might view what’s percolating in San Antonio as special, the Spurs consider the regular-season accolades meaningless if they’re walking away in June without a championship trophy in hand. Most made that abundantly clear in a business-as-usual locker room on the heels of San Antonio’s 100-92 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
“The only thing I see is that we can try and win a championship,” point guard Tony Parker said. “I don’t really think about having a good regular season, how many games we won. It doesn’t matter, because at the end of the day, the only thing you remember is how many championships you won.”
Manu Ginobili hadn’t played since March 25, as the club deactivated him for matchups on Saturday and Monday at Oklahoma City and Memphis. Ginobili’s last extended rest came in February as the result of testicular surgery, which kept him out of 12 games. Upon return from that setback, Ginobili racked up a season-high 22 points in 15 minutes. After this latest two-game rest, Ginobili came back to the lineup and lit up the Pelicans on 5 of 6 from 3-point range for another 20-point night while tying Leonard for the team high in steals at three.
San Antonio faces Toronto, Golden State and Oklahoma City in its next three home games.
Parker said earlier in the week that he doesn’t expect Popovich to play all the front-line players in either of the remaining matchups against the Warriors (April 7 and April 10). Parker reiterated that point at Wednesday’s shootaround and said it “doesn’t matter to me” when asked about the importance of the club’s current home streak.
Ginobili echoed those sentiments.
“No, it really doesn’t [matter],” Ginobili said. “If we would have lost Game 24, and now we are 37-1, it wouldn’t make that much of a difference. Having a 38-game streak or 37-1 is unbelievable, anyway. So I really don’t care about streaks. We know we are having a great season. If we would have lost one more or two more, it wouldn’t change that.”
VIDEO: Gregg Popovich talks after the Spurs’ win Wednesday
No. 2: Warriors gut out franchise-record win in Utah — As good as last season’s Golden State Warriors team was (67 wins, No. 1 seed in playoffs, NBA champions), this season’s edition is obviously that much better. They’ve proven that on the court and in the standings, where the Warriors got win No. 68 last night to set a franchise record. It wasn’t easy for Golden State, though, as it had to tough out an overtime victory against a feisty Utah team in Salt Lake City. Afterward, coach Steve Kerr couldn’t hide his happiness with his team’s willingness to fight through what looked like a certain loss. Diamond Leung of The Mercury News has more:
The Warriors pushed their record to 68-7 and are five wins in seven remaining games from breaking the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ record of 72 victories in a season. The Warriors surpassed their franchise record for victories set in last year’s championship season.
“It’d be so easy just to say, ‘nah we’re tired’ and call it a night,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of his players. “They wanted it. You could see why the record is where it is because these guys are talented, but they play their (behinds) off every night.”
With the loss, Utah fell into the eighth seed and would face the Warriors if the playoffs began after the game.
Scratching and clawing in the altitude, the Warriors were at their best at crunchtime.Klay Thompson drilled a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left in regulation to tie the score at 89, getting a second try at the shot after Shaun Livingston grabbed an offensive rebound.
“He’s such a cerebral player,” Thompson said of Livingston, who came off the bench to chip in six points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
Green blocked Shelvin Mack’s potential game-winning shot, and Gordon Hayward‘s follow missed.
“Nothing really went our way for most of the night, and they kept fighting,” Kerr said. “We always compete.
“So even if we had lost, I just like the effort. I love our competitive spirit. That’s the main thing. No matter what our record ends up, it almost doesn’t matter. It’s just the incredible display of competition and fight night after night.”
“We answered the bell in the fourth quarter, so we know if we come back here in a couple weeks in a playoff series, we know the expectations and what the atmosphere is going to be like and how we need to play to win a series like that,” Stephen Curry said.
VIDEO: Warriors outlast Jazz in OT
No. 3: Report: Chemistry issues dogging Bulls — As our own Steve Aschburner wrote earlier this week, the Chicago Bulls may only have themselves to blame for this disappointing, mess-of-a-season they have on their hands. The team’s front office decided to part ways with defense-first coach Tom Thibodeau after the 2015 playoffs to hire Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg in hopes of a more offense-first strategy. That hasn’t worked for Chicago, but the problems with the Bulls run deeper than just Xs and Os, writes Chris Mannix of The Vertical:
Remember last June, when the Bulls’ brass introduced Fred Hoiberg, declared him the perfect fit and smiled as Hoiberg gushed over a roster he openly declared had championship potential? That was before Jimmy Butler publicly criticized him, before Joakim Noah became annoyed with him, before a promised free-flowing offense eroded to a far less efficient version than the one former coach Tom Thibodeau ran last season. Better days indeed.
The days of Thibodeau overextending Noah in a meaningless regular-season game seem like a distant utopia. Chemistry issues continue to plague the Bulls’ locker room, league sources told The Vertical. Grumblings range from Hoiberg’s inability to hold players accountable – a complaint registered publicly by Butler last December and one that lingers in the locker room today, a source said – to Butler’s shoddy shot selection to the disconnect within the team offensively. Take Tuesday, for instance. Chicago will take the win, but the Bulls scored five points in the final nine minutes, a stretch highlighted by possessions with few passes and forced, contested shots.
Hoiberg is an easy target, and it’s fair to criticize the college coach who has yet to translate Iowa State’s up-tempo offense to the pros. But Hoiberg was the repairman brought to overhaul a team that just needed a tuneup. The Bulls never won fewer than 45 games under Thibodeau. They played with discipline, won with defense and battled each possession with relentless intensity. Hoiberg shouldn’t be faulted for trying to put his own imprint on this group, but no one should be surprised that it has been so resistant to him.
A shakeup is inevitable, and it’s already begun. Noah is done for the season with a shoulder injury. He is expected to walk at the end of the season via free agency. Pau Gasol could, too. The Bulls want to play faster, be more offensively versatile under Hoiberg and neither big man appears to fit that mold.
Changes, though, could run deeper. Derrick Rose is entering the final year of his contract, and the price tag ($21.3 million) won’t look nearly as bad in the exploding cap era as it has in this one. The 2011 MVP is gone forever, but this version, a mid-40-percent shooter from the floor, low 30s from 3-point range, yet still capable of sporadic spurts of greatness, is desirable in a league starved for capable playmakers.
Indeed, no one is untouchable. The palace intrigue that surrounded Butler and Hoiberg prompted several teams to inquire about Butler’s availability at the trade deadline. Though they were rebuffed, several rival executives told The Vertical they intend to try again. Boston was among the teams trying to pry away Butler in February, and several executives point to Orlando, with its treasure trove of young players and defensive-minded head coach, as a team to watch closely in the pursuit of Butler.
No. 4: Cousins, Rondo facing suspension for next game — Since he entered the NBA in the 2010-11 season, Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins has never finished lower than fifth in the league in technical fouls. He’s led the lead in techs twice in his career and is on pace to do so again this season after he earned a technical last night in a home win against the Washington Wizards. How Cousins and teammate Rajon Rondo earned their technicals was somewhat bizarre, writes Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee, as the game was decided and nearing its final seconds:
The Kings’ latest victory was about good shooting, strong bench play and DeMarcus Cousins putting up another good offensive effort – until there were 6.7 seconds left in Sacramento’s 120-111 win over the Washington Wizards Wednesday night at Sleep Train Arena.
What happened was a flurry of whistles from referee Marc Davis that led to Rajon Rondo’s ejection and Cousins’ 16th technical foul, which means he will be suspended for Friday’s game against the Miami Heat.
It would be the second time in Cousins’ career he’s missed a game for reaching 16 technicals in a season.
It all began after Rondo was called for an inbound violation and a turnover with 6.7 seconds to play. Cousins and Rondo were clapping after the call and Davis called a technical foul on both.
Davis followed that up with a second technical foul on Rondo and he was ejected from the game.
“It was a good night until towards the end,” Cousins said. “It was unfortunate that it happened. I really don’t know what to say. I don’t know.”
The Kings had planned to rest players for Saturday’s game in Denver. Cousins said he would not be playing in Denver even after missing Friday’s game.
Kings coach George Karl was stumped as to why Rondo was ejected more than the initial technicals called on Rondo and Cousins.
“Marc Davis said from halfcourt that Rondo was walking up the sideline (on the second technical foul),” Karl said. “I don’t see that. Obviously there’s some history there. The call and of course, clapping is probably a legit technical foul.”
Rondo was ejected from a playoff game with Boston in 2012 for bumping Davis and was suspended for a game.
Davis has had issues with the Kings in the past, too, and that has some players wary of him. Former Kings coach Michael Malone was fined $25,000 in Jan. 2014 by the NBA for calling Davis a coward after a controversial call late in a game that the Kings lost at Memphis.
Rondo was careful with his words as he did not want to be fined by the NBA for criticizing an official.
“I don’t understand how he can make that call,” Rondo said. “There are two refs beside me and it seems like déjà vu (from his last ejection) because again the cross-court official farthest on the court made the call. That’s all I can say.”
Added Rondo: “Sometimes the game is not about the players on the court, it’s about, fill in the blank.”
No. 5: Russell dealing with fallout from Young video incident — The Los Angeles Lakers as a team are trying to pick up the pieces in the wake of the leaked video incident between teammates Nick Young and D’Angelo Russell that broke Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. Both players addressed the media before and after the game and Russell had more to say about the incident than Young, but Russell is clearly aware of how his actions have affected the team and is trying to recover from it. ESPN.com’s Baxter Holmes was at last night’s Heat-Lakers game at Staples Center and has more on Russell’s state of mind:
When D’Angelo Russell was introduced in the starting lineup on Wednesday night against the Miami Heat, the Los Angeles Lakers rookie guard was met by heavy boos from a Staples Center crowd that, until then, had cheered him all season long.
When the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft touched the ball for the first time on offense, fans continued to boo. When the former Ohio State standout launched his first shot, a 3-point attempt from the right wing, fans continued to boo. And when Russell stood at the free throw line to complete a three-point play after scoring his first basket, fans continued to boo.
Indeed, it was evident from the outset of the game that he would receive no sympathy from the Lakers’ faithful in attendance a day after ESPN reported that a rift had developed between Russell and his teammates when a video that Russell secretly recorded of Nick Young surfaced on social media.
Some fans shouted “Snitch!” and “Traitor!” — calls that were crystal clear for all to hear.
“I can’t really show my face anywhere without people hating me right now,” Russell said. “I don’t know. I try to handle it the right way and remember why I’m here, which is to play basketball.”
“It was tough to a certain extent,” Russell said of preparing for the game. “When you’ve got a guy like Kobe [Bryant] or somebody that’s been through everything and he’s just like, ‘You’ve got to just play. You’ve got to just play. There’s no answer. There’s nothing anybody can say. You’ve got to just play,’ I just ran with it. Everybody — [including] my dad — everybody was saying, ‘You’ve got to just play.'”
As Bryant explained, “I had a chance to talk to him earlier today. All I can do is just do my best Yoda impersonations and give him that kind of sage advice, I guess. One day pass, this shall — or something like that.”
In all, Bryant called the situation “unfortunate.”
“It’s tough,” Bryant said. “I think there’s a lot to learn from that; I’m sure he is, I’m sure he’ll evolve. I’m sure he’ll grow, and I’m sure he’ll be better from it. I don’t think there’s much he can do about it now; outside of the countless apologies, there’s not really anything else he can do but just continue to perform, continue to earn the trust of his teammates and his peers and onward he goes.”
While it wasn’t clear whether his teammates were isolating him, Russell wasn’t heavily involved in the game and didn’t showcase the aggressiveness that had led to big scoring nights this season, such as when he scored 39 points early this month against the Brooklyn Nets.
Russell seemed especially attentive to Lakers coach Byron Scott throughout the contest, especially active in trying to communicate with his teammates when he was on the floor and in cheering for them when he wasn’t.
Young, meanwhile, didn’t play for the 11th straight game, but he remained jovial on the bench, joking with nearby teammates.
In instances when Russell sat on the bench, the two did not sit side-by-side. Two players were wedged between them at one point earlier in the game, and in the fourth quarter, Russell sat closer to the coaching staff.
Bryant offered his opinion on how Russell can regain the trust of the locker room.
“He talked to the guys tonight,” Bryant said. “I think the guys are understanding. I think we’re all human beings; I don’t think anybody can hold anybody in strict judgment, because everybody makes mistakes. If we’re being honest with ourselves and we’re sincerely self-assessing, I think we’ll realize we’ve all made mistakes and we’ve all made massive ones at times. The important thing is to show compassion, empathy. And help him grow, help us grow as a group.”
A contrite Russell spoke with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo’s The Vertical last night, too:
“I am sick,” Russell told The Vertical by phone on his drive to the Staples Center on Wednesday. “I am sorry about recording the video. I can’t repeat myself enough on that: I am sorry I recorded that video. I feel horrible. I wish this never happened.”
When asked about how the video left his possession and became public months after it was recorded, Russell told The Vertical: “Honestly, I have no idea. Me and Nick, that’s our friendship: We play around a lot. Anyone who knows him and knows me, they know that about us. But I apologize for recording that video. I never intentionally wanted to hurt anyone. I never wanted what was said in there to get out. It was my fault that it did, but that was never intentional.
“The thing is, we record ourselves doing dumb stuff all the time,” Russell told The Vertical. “On the road or home, wherever. We go back and watch what we did and said and laugh at ourselves. I guess I just never thought that these pranks we pull on ourselves could have bigger consequences. That was a big lesson I learned.
“I’ve said to myself over and over: What could anyone possibly gain by intentionally doing something that could hurt someone else’s relationship? I never wanted to hurt anyone. I’m sorry for it.”
Russell told the Vertical that he had spoken to Young and apologized to him – but wouldn’t say whether he believed his apology had been accepted. “He heard me out,” Russell told The Vertical. “I cherish our friendship on and off the court. … I never meant to hurt anyone.”
“Listen, man, I know that it will take some time to regain trust and confidence,” Russell told The Vertical. “I hope they know I would never intentionally hurt someone – and know how horrible I feel.”
“I have the best job in the world, playing for this franchise, in a city that I love,” Russell told The Vertical. “You have to be willing to take the good with the bad, and that’s part of this job. … But I feel even stronger today than I did then. I love this city and love this franchise. … I take nothing for granted.
“I know this is going to be tough. I am a good person. I cherish the relationships I have and I would never intentionally hurt someone. I will work hard to earn back the trust of my teammates and those who were impacted by this.
“I’ll do whatever it takes.”
Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News reports that, in short, Russell has a lot of work to do to regain his teammates’ trust:
The deflated feeling wore on D’Angelo Russell’s face. This time the frustration had little to do with another Lakers loss or his fluctuating role.
It had everything to do with the remorse Russell said he felt over a secretly recorded video recently going public that showed teammate Nick Young admitting seeing another woman other than his fiance, Iggy Azalea.
“I feel sick as possible,” Russell said before the Lakers hosted the Miami Heat on Wednesday at Staples Center. “I wish I could make things better right away. But I can’t.”
So why did Russell even record the video?
“We joked around and play all around all the time and said crazy things. This just got in the wrong hands. It wasn’t a prank or something for everybody else to see. This was for my eyes and his eyes only,” Russell said. “There’s really no explanation for the topic of that discussion. But we play around and we joke and we laugh. We say things that you don’t really repeat. That was just an incident of playing too much goes wrong. I take the full blame for that and recording the video. But leaking the video wasn’t me.”
Conflicting accounts have emerged on how much Russell and Young have addressed the incident.
Russell and Young had private discussions regarding the incident, various team sources familiar with the situation said earlier on Wednesday afternoon.
“I’ve reached out to him and talked a little bit,” Russell said. “I let him know my apologies. I don’t know if they were accepted. If not, I wouldn’t blame him.”
But a source close with Young remained adamant on Wednesday evening that Russell has not apologized to Young. Even if Russell did, skepticism lingers that Young would have even accepted the apology. Young spoke for about a minute to reporters, but he did not take any questions.
“I don’t want to get into my personal life right now,” said Young, who is on the active roster after the Lakers said he missed the past two games because of a stomach bug. “I think it’s best me and D’Angelo handle the situation we have in a private manner outside of the media. I think it’s something we do need to sit down and talk about. That’s about it. What happened is what happened. We have to work on it.”
Even before Russell’s recorded video became public, several Lakers sources have privately echoed Scott’s criticisms throughout the 2015-16 season about the 20-year-old Russell’s maturity, work ethic and attitude. During an angry speech following a loss in Portland in late January, Kobe Bryant had also singled Russell and Julius Randle out about their poor play. Still, the Lakers do not plan to discipline Russell.
“If I’ve lost anybody’s trust, I’m going to work my tail off to gain it back,” Russell said. “That’s something you need for a winning team. You need everybody to trust each other. You need the first guy to trust the 15th guy. That’s my intentions.”
VIDEO: The Starters discuss the D’Angelo Russell video situation
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Minnesota Timberwolves coach Sam Mitchell says his team’s young stars need to ‘grow up’ as he lit into his team after a 20-point home loss Wednesday … Four fans trying to get an autograph from Stephen Curry before last night’s Warriors-Jazz game fell from the stands when a railing dislodged. None of them were seriously hurt … Speaking of Warriors-Jazz, a first-round series between these two teams could be fun … Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade and his wife, Gabrielle Union, will soon have a house-flipping show on HGTV … New York Knicks rookie phenom Kristaps Porzingis needs an MRI on his sore right shoulder … Things aren’t ending well in New York between Arron Afflalo and interim coach Kurt Rambis … Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says he doesn’t blame Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo for him wanting to keep Dallas out of the playoffs … New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis has been super-bored since having his knee surgery … A fantastic (and long) read on how Warriors owner Joe Lacob has turned the franchise into a behemoth …