Posts Tagged ‘Nando de Colo’

Morning shootaround — Aug. 17


VIDEO: USA postgame news conference: Coach K and Thibs

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Davis leads USA over Brazil | Chicago gets first-hand look at new Rose | Noel credits Rondo for recovery assist

No. 1: Davis leads USA over Brazil — The U.S. National Team’s preparation for the FIBA Basketball World Cup ramped up on Saturday, as they played their first exhibition game at the United Center. Brazil’s frontline is one of the best in the world and was a good test for the diminished U.S. roster, but the best big man on the floor was Anthony Davis, who led the U.S. to a 95-78 victory with 20 points, eight rebounds and five blocks. Our Steve Aschburner was there with the story:

The brightest lights were on Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls’ MVP point guard who is starting his second comeback in as many years from season-ending knee surgeries. As frustrated as some Bulls fans had grown with Rose during his extended layoffs – Rose had played only six games on the UC court since April 2012 – the folks who packed the joint Saturday night flexed oohs, aahs and MVP chants that were no more rusty than the hometown kid’s game.

Anthony Davis crashed their little party, though, turning in the most impressive performance of the night. Like Rose, Davis grew up in the Englewood neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. Unlike Rose, whose high school (Simeon) is one of the city’s basketball powerhouses, Davis’ Perspectives Charter School didn’t even have its own gym.

But the New Orleans Pelicans’ 21-year-old center made United Center his own against Brazil’s imposing front line, scoring 20 points on 10-for-16 shooting, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking five shots.

Local fans who’ve paid attention to Davis’ career – his single season and NCAA championship at Kentucky, his No. 1 draft selection in 2012 by New Orleans – might have been just as hungry to see him play. Davis missed the game in Chicago as a rookie while recovering from a concussion, then sat out the Pelicans’ visit last season with a broken hand.

So this was Davis’ first game back home since high school and he put on a show.

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No. 2: Chicago gets first-hand look at new Rose — Though the other Chicago native was the star of the game (and is more critical to the USA’s success this summer), it was Derrick Rose that most of the fans were there to see. Chicago was thirsty to see Rose back in action after a nine-month layoff, so much that they chanted for him to come back in the game in the fourth quarter. And though he missed a dunk and scored just seven points, Bulls fans weren’t disappointed with what they saw, as ESPN’s Jon Greenberg writes:

It wasn’t quite the D-Rose Tent Revival at the United Center during Team USA’s 95-78 exhibition win over Brazil, but the man the fans came to see put on a few classic moves to let the hometown crowd know he’s baaaaaaack.

That’s seven a’s, one for each point he scored. It was the best damn seven-point performance Chicago has seen in some time — because Rose was actually back in live game action.

Rose, who got a small cut above his eye in the first half, was pleased with his night and explained that his mission was “playing hard on defense, taking shots when I have the shots and letting the game come to me.”

It was all part of “a process,” Rose said, as he primes for the FIBA World Cup next month and (knock on wood) another return season for the Chicago Bulls.

He did all those things: play defense, push the ball, shoot when he had a good look. But I can speak for everyone in attendance when I write it was just good to see Rose play basketball in person again. He can have rust, lint, asbestos, whatever. But he played basketball in Chicago, and the normalcy of it — Rose fitting in — was welcomed.

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No. 3: Noel credits Rondo for recovery assist — In an extensive Q & A with James Herbert of CBS Sports, Sixers rookie Nerlens Noel gave credit to an Atlantic Division opponent for helping him recover:

Is it important to you now that you’ve been through it to talk to other guys if they go down with that same injury?

Oh yeah, yeah. Definitely, definitely. With all the support and love, certain guys, especially Rajon Rondo — he was definitely the biggest helper through this whole process, he actually gave me his phone number and told me I could hit him up whenever about it. Being from Boston, watching him growing up, and he went through it and he came back as strong as possible, actually before me, so it gave me a lot of confidence, having his good faith.

Is that kind of crazy, being a Celtics fan growing up, to get to know him on a personal level?

Yeah, definitely. That’s definitely what made it even more of a thrill. Being able to interact with Rondo and get good advice from him, ’cause he’s more of a veteran point guard now in this league, gone through so much with the Big 3, he’s a world champion, he’s a player who’s very mature in this league now. So definitely, it was crazy. I took a lot from him.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Brazil’s Leandro Barbosa, who’s a free agent and still just 31 years old after 11 years in the league, will use the World Cup as an audition for NBA teams … France’s Nando de Colo, who signed with CSKA Moscow this summer, broke his hand and is out of the World Cup … If Shawn Marion is willing to sign for the minimum, the Clippers are interested … and the framework for a possible mid-season tournament could be coming into place.

ICYMI of The Night: Derrick Rose thrilled the United Center crowd with this drive to the rack:


VIDEO: Slash and score

16 NBA Players Still Going At EuroBasket

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – With training camps set to open in less than two weeks, most NBA players are getting back to their places of business and working out with their teammates.

Several guys, however, are in Slovenia, representing their countries at EuroBasket. Sixteen teams have gone home and eight remain, playing for national pride and seven spots in next year’s World Cup of Basketball. EuroBasket has been the best basketball of the summer and the single-elimination action starts Wednesday.

Here’s the quarterfinal schedule:
Serbia (E1) vs. Spain (F4), Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. ET (NBA TV)
Slovenia (F2) vs. France (E3), Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET (NBA TV)
Croatia (F1) vs. Ukraine (E4), Thursday, 11:45 a.m. ET
Lithuania (E2) vs. Italy (F3), Thursday, 3 p.m. ET

And here are the 16 NBA players still playing, with some notes on how they’ve done so far…

Nicolas Batum (Blazers) – France
His stats: 28.1 MPG, 11.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.6 APG, .463 FG%, 7-for-31 3PT
The buzz: Batum has been filling the box score (as he’s known to do). He had 19 points, 10 boards, six assists, a steal and a block in last Friday’s win over Latvia. But he’s had some rough shooting nights from beyond the arc.

Marco Belinelli (Spurs) – Italy
His stats: 31.6 MPG, 14.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.4 APG, .369 FG%, 11-for-34 3PT
The buzz: Belinelli is Italy’s primary ball-handler, a different role than he’s played in the NBA. He’s had some big games, but will be facing one of the tournament’s toughest defenses in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Jose Calderon (Mavs) – Spain
His stats: 23.4 MPG, 9.4 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, .458 FG%, 18-for-37 3PT
The buzz: Sharing the backcourt with Ricky Rubio, Calderon has been playing a lot of two guard for Spain. But that’s OK, because every team needs a secondary ball-handler and he’s also a great shooter. He has a 24/8 assist/turnover ratio and has hit three or more 3-pointers in four of Spain’s eight games.

Victor Claver (Blazers) – Spain
His stats: 17.9 MPG, 4.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 0.9 APG, .412 FG%, 5-for-15 3PT
The buzz: Claver is a terrific rebounder starting at power forward and doing the dirty work for Spain. He’s averaging almost 11 boards per 36 minutes at Eurobasket and had 11 in just 24 minutes before fouling out against Greece. He has drained a few threes, but probably spends a little too much time hanging out on the perimeter.

Luigi Datome (Pistons) – Italy
His stats: 29.9 MPG, 14.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.3 APG, .488 FG%, 15-for-36 3PT
The buzz: The Pistons’ rookie has had a couple of big games and sent Monday’s thriller against Spain to overtime with a driving layup at the buzzer. He can shoot and will be a decent role player in the league, but will need to play off Detroit’s playmakers. He’s not very mobile or skilled off the dribble.

Nando De Colo (Spurs) – France
His stats: 20.3 MPG, 8.8 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.9 APG, .413 FG%, 11-for-26 3PT
The buzz: Coming off the bench for France, De Colo shot well early in the tournament, but has cooled off of late.

Boris Diaw (Spurs) – France
His stats: 28.1 MPG, 10.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.4 APG, .508 FG%, 3-for-12 3PT
The buzz: Tony Parker is the star in France, but it’s Diaw’s passing from the high post that can really make the French offense click. Though Parker has the ball in his hands more, Diaw has almost as many dimes.

Goran Dragic (Suns) – Slovenia
His stats: 23.3 MPG, 15.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 4.4 APG, .392 FG%, 8-for-32 3PT
The buzz: Dragic is a terror on the break and has had some big games for the tournament’s hosts, including 28 points in a win over Greece on Saturday. The shooting numbers look ugly, because he missed his first 11 threes of the tournament. His matchup against Parker could be the best of the quarterfinals.

Marc Gasol (Grizzlies) – Spain
His stats: 29.5 MPG, 13.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, .521 FG%, 3-for-6 3PT
The buzz: Though Gasol had 32 points and 10 boards in Monday’s overtime loss to Italy, his offensive numbers don’t make it clear that he’s one of the two best players in the tournament. But he’s anchored Eurobasket’s No. 1 defense, which has allowed 16.5 fewer points per 100 possessions than the tourney average.

Mickael Gelabale (Wolves) – France
His stats: 25.5 MPG, 7.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.6 APG, .449 FG%, 8-for-23 3PT
The buzz: Like De Colo, Gelable shot well early on (7-for-15 from 3-point range in the first round), but has since cooled off (1-for-8) in Round 2. He’s in France’s starting lineup for his defense, but can provide some scoring off the ball.

Viacheslav Kravtsov (Suns) – Ukraine
His stats: 17.9 MPG, 6.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1.4 BPG, .436 FG%
The buzz: Ukraine’s only NBA player is its fifth leading scorer. Kravtsov is a big body who needs more polish in the post.

Donatas Motiejunas (Rockets) – Lithuania
His stats: 11.6 MPG, 5.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.3 APG, .486 FG%, 4-for-12 3PT
The buzz: Lithuania is deep up front and Motiejunas was barely playing  earlier in the tournament (he picked up three fouls in eight minutes against Bosnia). But he totaled 23 points in 39 minutes in Lithuania’s last two games, helping them secure a spot in the quarters.

Nemanja Nedovic (Warriors) – Serbia
His stats: 26.0 MPG, 9.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, .368 FG%, 11-for-38 3PT
The buzz: With the absence of Hang Time favorite Milos Teodosic, Nedovic – the No. 30 pick in the 2013 Draft – has been starting at point guard for Serbia. He’s solid and can shoot off the dribble, but he doesn’t have the quickness to be much of a threat on the pick-and-roll. But he doesn’t need to be a real floor general with a team like Serbia, that moves the ball pretty well.

Tony Parker (Spurs) – France
His stats: 27.9 MPG, 17.3 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 3.9 APG, .532 FG%, 7-for-26 3PT
The buzz: The best offensive player in the tournament is leading the No. 1 offense. Parker has been a terror on the pick-and-roll (no surprise there), but his pull-up jumper has been a little shaky. France has a lot of work to get through Slovenia on Wednesday, but a semifinal matchup against Spain could be the game of the tournament.

Ricky Rubio (Wolves) – Spain
His stats: 21.4 MPG, 8.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 3.0 APG, .446 FG%, 3-for-7 3PT
The buzz: Against defenses that are packing the paint (there’s no defensive three-second rule in FIBA), Rubio isn’t as dynamic a playmaker as he is in the league. He’s done a decent job of making opponents pay for going under the screen, stepping up and knocking down the mid-range jumper. But shooting is probably why Calderon has played more minutes.

Jonas Valanciunas (Raptors) – Lithuania
His stats: 17.4 MPG, 7.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 0.0 APG, 1.0 BPG, .697 FG%
The buzz: Continuing his excellent play from Summer League, Valanciunas has made 23 of his 33 shots and is averaging 16.3 points and 12.4 rebounds per 36 minutes. But Lithuania is deep up front, so his playing time has been somewhat limited. He had a double-double in just 13 minutes against Belgium on last Friday. We’ll see if he gets more minutes in the elimination rounds.

Time For Parker To Settle For Some R&R?

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Nobody’s telling Tony Parker to knit berets from a rocking chair for three months. But in light of this week’s second international knee scare and a cross-your-fingers MRI, perhaps it is time for some summer R&R for the All-NBA point guard.

Parker has nobly led his countrymen as team captain of the French national team since 2003 and has represented his country on the senior level since 2002, and on the junior level since 1997 (when he was 16).

Parker, 31, has a career’s worth of bumps, bruises, twists, strains and sprains that rivals the number of countries he’s competed in. His latest scare came days ago in an exhibition game preparing for next week’s FIBA European Championships. The details from the French national team were vague, but for a second time during the run-up to the tournament, Parker did something to his right knee that didn’t feel good.

The MRI came back negative and Parker declared he will be 100 percent for France’s opener against Germany. Germany’s star, Dirk Nowitzki, is forsaking the tourney to have more time to manage his right knee that required surgery last October. That doesn’t mean the game will be a cakewalk for Parker’s club — which includes Portland’s Nicolas Batum and Spurs teammates Boris Diaw and Nando De Colo. Overall, this French team is one devoid of NBA veterans, including Joakim Noah, a wounded warrior much of last season, and key cogs Ian Mahinmi and Ronny Turiaf.

No one could have blamed Parker had he graciously bowed out of the FIBA tourney considering he missed 16 games last season, scared the bejesus out of coach Gregg Popovich two weeks before the playoffs and gutted through a Grade 1 hamstring strain in the final four games of The Finals.

But when it comes to the French National team, there is no stopping Tony. He delivered France its first medal in 50 years in the 2005 European Championship and got them to the finals for the first time in 2011, followed by a sixth-place finish at the 2012 Olympics.

And speaking of the Olympics, in a recent overseas interview, Parker said he plans to play for France through the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. At that point, he’ll be 34 and coming off a 15th NBA season.

It leads to one question with no defined answer: With meaningful international tournaments staged around the globe each summer, when, if ever, does loyalty to one’s NBA team supersede loyalty to country? The Spurs have paid Parker $95 million over 12 seasons and will pay him $12.5 million more this season.

Parker is the irreplaceable driving force behind the Spurs as Tim Duncan, 37, and Manu Ginobili, 36, hit their twilight years. Ginobili, a fixture on the Argentinian national team, is not playing in the FIBA Americas Championship after dealing with frustrating injuries last season.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has long been the loudest critic among NBA owners of international competition. He bemoans that NBA teams assume all the risk when their handsomely paid players suit up for their countries. Cuban saw once-promising guard Rodrigue Beaubois, a Parker protege, break his foot during a French national team practice several years ago. Requiring two surgeries, Beaubois never bounced back, is no longer with Dallas and remains unsigned.

Two months after winning the 2011 NBA championship, Nowitzki led an inexperienced German national team into the European Championships pushing for a second consecutive OIympic bid. Germany failed to advance and Nowitzki started the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season with a bothersome right knee he pinned on the additional physical toll of playing that summer: “Playing in the Euros, looking back now, was obviously not the right decision, but it was a decision I made for my country,” Nowitzki said in January 2012.

Interestingly, Mavs rookie guard Gal Mekel, a star for the Israeli national team, told his coach in late July that he would not play in the European Championship. Israeli coach Arik Shivek said the Mavs strong-armed Mekel to pull out.

Even if Parker breezes through the Euro championships without another nick, the additional wear-and-tear on his body after another long season has to be concerning to the Spurs and their fans (who have seen this play out with Ginobili). A number of NBA players, some of whom dealt with health issues last season, decided to sit this summer out, with the Lakers’ Pau Gasol (Spain) and the Spurs’ Tiago Splitter (Brazil) among them.

The Spurs have signed and drafted numerous international players. The current roster boasts nine foreign players from six countries, not including Duncan, who hails from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Six are currently playing internationally.

But there’s only one Parker. And with training camp opening in less than five weeks, all of San Antonio waits stateside with bated breath. Because nobody wants to watch Parker knitting berets from the Spurs’ bench.

Spurs’ Joseph Keeps Eye On Unsigned Neal

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LAS VEGAS – Corey Joseph left Vegas with the San Antonio Spurs’ Summer League team while still keeping close watch on perhaps the team’s last bit of offseason roster business, but not for the reason you might think.

“I’m watching it pretty close,” Joseph said of teammate Gary Neal, a restricted free agent who remains unsigned. “Gary is one of my close friends on the team. Hopefully he comes back. We hope we get him. That’s all I really want because Gary is a big piece of our team.”

All that might be true, but if the combo guard who has rewarded the Spurs for giving him a shot three years ago in Vegas, does return, then Joseph will again find himself in a tight minutes competition behind Tony Parker with Neal and 2009 second-round pick Nando de Colo.

Joseph, 21, last season famously phoned San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich asking to be assigned back to the club’s D-League affiliate in nearby Austin. Joseph figured he could either sit on the pine with the big team or play and improve with the minor-league club. It paid off as Joseph starting winning backcourt minutes late in the season while playing in just 28 games.

Neal emerged as Popovich’s top reserve behind Parker in the playoffs and Neal’s six 3-pointers and 24 points pushed the Spurs to a Game 3 victory over Miami in the NBA Finals. Neal scored just 12 points in the final three games, which might prove to be his last in a Spurs uniform.

When the club signed 6-foot-5 free agent veteran shooting guard Marco Belinelli, it seemed to signal that San Antonio — which did extend a qualifying offer of $1.1 million that prevented Neal from becoming an unrestricted free agent — likely would not match another team’s offer sheet.

Earlier this month, Neal was reportedly receiving offers from teams higher than the Spurs were willing to match. With July moving to a close and teams finalizing their rosters, Neal has yet to make a move.

“I feel like I’ve come a far way, but I know there’s still far to come, so I just keep on working countless hours at the gym because I know that’s what it takes,” Joseph said. “I don’t want to feel comfortable. The backup point guard spot, in my mind, is still open. We have a lot of great point guards on our team, so I’ve still got to prove myself.”

The battle for 2013-14 minutes started began in earnest in Summer League. He and De Colo both played four of the team’s five games and they finished with near-identical stats. Joseph averaged 10.3 ppg, 4.5 apg and 3.3 turnovers per game in 28.3 mpg. He shot 38.9 percent from the floor and 27.3 percent from 3-point range. De Colo, 26, averaged 11.3 ppg, 4.0 apg and 3.3 turnovers per game in 31.8 mpg. He shot 34 percent from the floor and 22.2 percent from beyond the arc.

A native of Toronto, Joseph played one season at Texas before the Spurs drafted him with the 29th overall pick in 2011. He’s played 57 total games with San Antonio. He will earn $1.1 million in 2013-14 and the Spurs hold a team option for the 2014-15 season.

Uncertainty Of New Parker Injury Hangs Over Spurs

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OKLAHOMA CITY – The San Antonio Spurs lost their grip on the West’s top seed Thursday night and potentially much more.

All-Star point guard Tony Parker couldn’t continue in the Spurs’ 100-88 loss to the Thunder due to an unspecified injury to his leg. Limping on his left leg in the locker room, Parker, playing well since recently coming back from a sprained left ankle, wouldn’t expound on this new injury, although a solemn coach Gregg Popovich seemed to be bracing for the worst.

“I’m really concerned about Tony right now after seeing his situation tonight where he just had to stop,” Popovich said. “My feeling is tendinitis, something in his shins or whatever, from the way it looked on the court. But I don’t know.

“I got to see what’s going on. I got to see what the deal is. We thought he had just kind of recovered from his ankle, so this was something new tonight with his leg. I just don’t know what it is right now.”

Popovich yanked the sluggish Parker for good after he noticed him limping through a two-plus-minute stint early in the fourth quarter, leaving crunch-time duty to rookie Nando De Colo. Parker played 26 total minutes, just 10 in the second half, and finished 1-for-6 from the floor for a season-low two points that snapped a 56-game streak of scoring in double figures.

Thursday’s game was just his seventh back from the sprained ankle and he’s been playing through the remnants of a bone bruise in the ankle among other nagging injuries. He scored 25 points with five assists Monday night at Memphis and sat out Wednesday’s game against Orlando, listed on the injury report with a sore left ankle.

“I just have to get healthy,” Parker said. “I’m not going to talk about all my stuff. I’ve got a lot of stuff going on. I just have to get healthy. OKC, give them a lot of credit. They just beat us tonight.” (more…)

Spurs’ Joseph Taking The Steady Road

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RENO, Nev. — By now Cory Joseph knows just about every bump in the road between San Antonio and Austin.

“I think I could probably drive it with my eyes closed,” he said.

That’s because the 6-foot-3 point guard guard has been driving laps between the Spurs the and NBA D-League Austin Toros for the better part of two seasons.

Joseph scored 21 points, dealt four assists and grabbed four rebounds for the Toros in a 96-78 win over Santa Cruz on Tuesday in an NBA D-League Showcase game where his team came from 18 points down at halftime.

“It just feels good to be on the court the whole game, get to make up for some early mistakes and see a game all the way to the finish,” he said. “It’s all about the minutes if you’re going to take your game up a level.”

Getting Joseph those minutes is the reason the Spurs have made the most of this year’s rule change that allows unlimited assignments for a player between the NBA and the D-League. By taking advantage of the Spurs’ schedule, he gets to practice frequently with the likes of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker and while getting significant playing time in Austin.

Since being drafted in 2011, he’s played only very limited minutes in 38 games in San Antonio, but has 11 games of running the point as a starter in Austin.

The Spurs were questioned by some for using the 29th pick in the draft on Joseph, a player many didn’t think was ready to make the jump to the NBA from the University of Texas.

But despite the presence of Parker, Patty Mills and Nando De Colo on the roster, the team continues to believe in what Joseph can do.

“He does things that win games,” coach Gregg Popovich said a few weeks ago. “Fifty-fifty balls, making a steal, getting a rebound, playing great (defense) — he’s always active. That’s his game.”

The 21-year-old admitted it was a blow at first last season when the Spurs told him he was being sent to the D-League.

“Of course, everybody who has an NBA contract wants to stay there and play for the team,” he said. “But when you have to look at the bigger picture. I realize that you can only control what you can control and maybe the opportunity is not there for me right now and so I’m gonna keep coming down here and keep working and the when the opportunity presents itself, I’m gonna make sure I’m ready. In the meantime, I think I’m earning my money in both places.”

While the workouts in San Antonio give him the chance to stay directly connected to Pop’s teaching, playing more than 35 minutes a game with the Toros is providing him the necessary experience to run an offense and develop leadership skills.

“It’s not all about trying to do so much in four or fives minutes of a game when I’m here in the D-League,” Joseph said. “I get to be on the floor, get a real feel for what’s happening and then make some adjustments.

“This league has some real talent. It gives me great competition, a place to improve and, really, I kinda think I’ve got the best of both worlds.”

Pop Can’t Dance Out Of This One

 

Did you have the beer and soda on ice? The sandwiches made? The pizza ordered? Your favorite chair smack in front of the big screen TV?

To watch Matt Bonner, Gary Neal, Patty Mills and Nando de Colo battle the defending champion Heat?

Look, I’m a big believer in Gregg Popovich as a great coach and a down-to-earth guy. I’ve had him bark at me when he didn’t like a question. I shared a dance floor with him for a couple of really horrible versions of the tango one night in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

But Pop is flat wrong about sending home Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green ahead of the marquee game in Miami.

“We’re getting tired,” Popovich said before Wednesday night’s win at Orlando. “We’ve had a six-day trip and a 10-day trip. Usually you don’t have that in one month.”

Sorry, Pop. Tired is not an excuse. Not for every other team that has had to endure a grueling road trip or the vagaries of an often Byzantine NBA travel map. Not for the Spurs.

From a strictly Spurs-centric view of the world, it makes perfect sense to lighten the load as much as possible on the veteran Big Three that forms the core of the team’s championship hopes. That’s why it is wise to carefully manage minutes in each game of the schedule, as Popovich has successfully done over the past several years to extend Duncan’s career. If a game is safely decided one way or the other, there’s no problem with getting any veteran to the bench to save his legs for the next night in the voracious schedule.

But to simply blow off a game entirely is not acceptable. Not when fans have paid good money for tickets. Not when there might be one kid in Miami who is a Duncan or Ginobili or Parker fan and is hoping to see his hero for the first time. Not when the integrity of the game insists that you try to win. And the fact that he has done it before in resting up his team for the playoffs is no legitimate excuse either.

The Spurs would already have been playing without the injured Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson. With the Fleeing Foursome hitting the road early that means San Antonio dressed just nine players to face Miami.

Pop will say his responsibility is only to the franchise that signs his checks. But the success of that franchise comes from being a part of a larger enterprise, the league.

Pop will say that his job is to worry about playing national TV games in June when everything is on the line, not on a Thursday night in November. But those national TV games pay the rent, pay the salaries of players and coaches.

Pop will say that his job is to win championships, not friends. But then the Spurs can’t continue to go around poor-mouthing their lack of respect and notoriety on the national stage.

Pop will say a lot of things that seem to make sense when viewed from a bunker behind the Alamo. But it’s just a bad dance that looks worse than his tango.

International Rookie Class Goes Well Beyond 2012 Draftees

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – When it comes to international talent entering the NBA Draft, this was a down year.

No international players were selected until the Nuggets took France’s Evan Fournier with the 20th pick. And at most, there will be four international rookies from the 2012 Draft on NBA rosters this season.

But there will be plenty of other new international faces in the league, five from previous drafts and four more free agents that have signed with teams this summer. Here’s what we might expect from each of the nine, listed in order of which guys could make the most impact.

1. Jonas Valanciunas, C, Toronto, 2011 Draft (No. 5 overall)
The 6-foot-11 Lithuanian had an underwhelming performance at the Olympics, playing less than 12 minutes per game and getting lost at times when trying to defend pick-and-rolls. He’s just 20 years old and may need a few years to make the jump, but there’s a lot of potential there, and he could eventually be the second-best player out of last year’s draft.

2. Mirza Teletovic, F, Brooklyn, Free agent
Teletovic, who turns 27 next month, probably won’t start for the Nets but he should have a pretty big role as a big man off the bench. He averaged 15.8 points and 6.3 boards for Caja Laboral last season, and was the leading scorer (21.7 ppg) in Euroleague play. He’s a bit of a gunner, but has a pretty complete offensive game. Defense may be an issue.

3. Donatas Motiejunas, F, Houston, 2011 Draft (No. 20)
The way the Rockets’ roster is shaping up, the team should be pretty bad, and Motiejunas should get plenty of playing time. He’s a seven-foot stretch four whose range doesn’t quite reach the 3-point line. Still, he had an impressive Rockets debut at Summer League, averaging 23.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per 30 minutes in Vegas. (more…)

Parker, France Win Battle Of Spurs Stars

LONDON – The first ever matchup between San Antonio Spurs teammates Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in a FIBA or Olympic competition lived up to the hype.

And when it was over Parker and France had scored the first legitimate upset of this Olympic competition with a 71-64 win over Ginobili and Argentina Tuesday night at the Olympic Basketball Arena.

Parker was the catalyst for his team, finishing with 17 points, despite a 4-for-17 shooting effort, and five assists in the battle for bragging rights between these two NBA champions and All-Stars. Parker had plenty of help as France bounced back from Sunday’s 27-point loss to the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team.

Nicolas Batum was hot early and late, draining three of his six shots from beyond the 3-point line, and finishing his night with 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists. France finished the game without both Ronny Turiaf (13 points and six rebounds) and Boris Diaw, they fouled on in a six-second span in the fourth quarter when the game was still in the balance. Nando de Colo (13 points) and Kevin Seraphin (10 points and six rebounds) played huge minutes off of the bench for the winners as well.

France played the game at the pace they preferred for much of the night, hoisting 25 shots from beyond the 3-point line (and making nine) and led by as many as nine points.

Still, they had to hold off the relentless Ginobili and his crew. Ginobili led Argentina with 26 points and five rebounds. But Luis Scola was the only other player on the roster to score in double figures (16 points and eight rebounds).

Not Exactly A Fair Fight … But Close?

LONDON – Anyone searching for the biggest difference between the basketball competition at the Olympics 20 years ago in Barcelona to now need only scan the rosters and check off the list of NBA players each team can claim.

When the Dream Team suited up they had twice as many active NBA players (11) than the rest of the field combined (five). Fast forward to the competition that kicks off here Sunday and there are 41 current NBA players (59 total when you count former NBA players) on the different rosters and just 12 of those players (we’re counting No. 1 overall Draft pick and Hornets rookie Anthony Davis, since he’s already signed his rookie contract) are on the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team.

In fact, when the U.S. tangles with France in their opener Sunday, it will mark one of at least several times when potentially all 10 starters on the floor are current NBA players.

“It’s a different world in that respect,” Carmelo Anthony said. “I didn’t really think about it like that.”

A different world with different factors that aren’t lost on U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski, an assistant with the gold medal winning team in 1992.

The U.S. team is facing a France team that boasts not only Spurs All-Star point guard Tony Parker, but also quality NBA players in Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum, Clippers forward Ronny Turiaf, Spurs swingman Boris Diaw and guard Nando de Colo and Wizards center Kevin Seraphin.

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