Posts Tagged ‘San Antonio’

Aldridge move just another master class by ever-evolving Spurs

VIDEO: David Aldridge on why LaMarcus Aldridge picked Spurs

This was hardly a roman candle that came out of nowhere on the Fourth of July.  It was a carefully managed, brilliantly-executed plan.

Think of all the things the Spurs have been able to accomplish over the past two decades:

— 18 straight trips to the playoffs.

— 16 consecutive seasons of 50-plus wins.

— 5 NBA championships.

Now this might be the slickest trick of them all.

LaMarcus Aldridge jumps from the Trail Blazers to the Spurs.

While so-called glamour franchises in New York and Los Angeles  keep floundering in their bids to reclaim relevance, little ol’ San Antonio finds a way to keep barreling down the tracks like a locomotive toward championship No. 6.  And maybe 7 and 8.

Just more than 12 months after their last celebratory river parade with an aging roster, the Spurs have made the transition to the next stage of the franchise with a move that was both brash and bold, but also a long time coming.

For even as general manager R.C. Buford and his staff kept juggling a roster built around the aging core of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to annually compete for championships, they were always looking ahead to this day when the future merged with the present.

“My complete faith and trust in R.C. is never going to change, because of the track record he has,” head coach Gregg Popovich told Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. “He’s always thinking not just for the next year and the next two years, but the next three years, the next seven years, that type of thing.”

By making all of the necessary moves — trading Tiago Splitter to Atlanta for a handful of beans, letting Aron Baynes go to Detroit, Marco Belinelli to Sacramento — Buford has set up the Spurs not only for next season but perhaps the next decade.

For so many years, the Spurs and their fans have proudly worn the label of a franchise that builds championships rather than buys them.  They were the ones that defiantly took down — and ultimately broke up — the Monied Mercenary Miami Heat of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

But the game of pro basketball is a business and the business is about making the most proficient, often the shrewdest, moves to stay on top of the competition.

Of course, the Spurs will be right back among the teams at the head of the Western Conference class in 2015-16 with a front line of Duncan, Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard.  With this nifty Texas two-step, the Spurs, who lost in the first round of this year’s playoffs, are suddenly 2-1 oddsmakers favorites to win the West, ahead of champion Golden State and Oklahoma City, and 4-1 to win it all, behind only LeBron and Cleveland.

Let’s not forget that with literally billions of dollars being thrown around in the free agent market in less than a week, Buford locked up Aldridge for four years (player option after third) at $80 million.  It’s a number that will look positively pedestrian net summer when the salaries shoot through the clouds with the influx of new TV money.  It almost looks that way now when you consider that Orlando will pay Tobias Harris $64 million over the same time frame.  Go ahead, compare Aldridge and Harris.

But just as important, with Aldridge at 29 and Duncan at 39, the Spurs will be in the thick of the contending pack for the foreseeable future.  That had to be the decision-making difference for Aldridge after he heard pitches from Portland, L.A. Phoenix, Houston and Miami.  Whenever the ageless Duncan finally decides to hang up his spurs, Aldridge has a 24-year-old running mate in Leonard, the 2014 Finals MVP, to keep churning ahead with perennial chances to add to the banner collection.

Don’t think that’s a tough trick to pull off without hitting bottom and suffering the bruises and indignity of suddenly finding out how life feels in the draft lottery?  Just ask the Lakers and Knicks.

As carefully and strategically as Popovich has managed the minutes of his veterans over the years to keep them fresh, Buford maneuvered and managed the salary cap with the flexibility of tiny gymnast to make this day possible.  It was never just a year-to-year reach for one more playoff run, but a decade-long plan to transition to the future.  All the while the Spurs were stacking up Larry O’Brien Trophys, they were keeping an eye on this critical summer when 10 contracts were timed to come off the books at the same time.

“We put the team together with that in mind,” Popovich said.

Sometimes the best-laid plans work out perfectly.

Reaction: Aldridge moves to Spurs Staff Reports

The Spurs celebrated Independence Day by landing the biggest free agent firework of the bundle. Here’s a timeline of how it went down…

A contented LaMarcus Aldridge followed that soon after with his own announcement.

More from Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who broke the news…

And it looks like what Spurs coach Gregg Popovich let on at lunch may have clinched it…

Green’s 3s are key at home and especially on the road

By Jeff Caplan,

VIDEO: GameTime crew looks at the Spurs’ offense through the years compared to this season

SAN ANTONIO — Spurs sharpshooter Danny Green lit up the Heat a year ago in Games 1 and 2 in Miami, making 10 of his 15 shots from beyond the arc. That type of accuracy is exceptional, and on the road it’s extraordinary.

In Games 6 and 7 back in Miami, Green fell back to earth, going 2-for-19 from 3-point range. His long-distance shooting is critical to San Antonio’s success. The beneficiary of drive-and-kick passes from Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, he’s often afforded open looks and can be the driving force in momentum-shifting runs.

Role players are always said to be much better performers in the comfort of their own arenas than in hostile environments, and Green has played to that trend so far during these playoffs. On 3-pointers, he’s shooting a remarkable 59.2 percent (38-for-66) at home and 31.3 percent (23-for-61) on the road.

In the last two series against Portland and Oklahoma City, he’s 21-for-35 (60 percent) from deep at home and 7-for-26 (26.9 percent) on the road.

“The last series, the two games we lost on the road against OKC, they played us tough and they were high on emotions and they closed out even better to our shooters,” Green said. “But we didn’t move the ball as well as we should have, like we wanted to. We can’t have games like that where we give them a game or two by not playing Spurs basketball. We have to continue to do that each and every night where we play our game, aggressive defense and offensively moving the ball and finding our shooters and taking uncontested shots.”

During their run to now a fourth consecutive Finals appearance, the Heat have been one of the league’s top defenses closing out at the 3-point line. They can put immense pressure on the perimeter, causing contested shots or creating turnovers that put LeBron James and company in transition.

Miami has not been very good at preventing 3-pointers this postseason, allowing 38.1 percent. The Spurs led the league in 3-point percentage during the regular season, and after the Dallas Mavericks aimed to take away San Antonio’s 3-point shots in the first round, and with some success, the Spurs have recovered and are shooting it at 39.2 percent throughout the playoffs.

“We have to do a better job of finding each other and taking uncontested shots,” Green said. “That’s the biggest key for us, moving the ball, be aggressive and at the same time be smart. We want to penetrate and move the ball to the open man.”

VIDEO: Kenny Smith compares Danny Green’s home-vs.-road shooting numbers


Ageless Duncan Has Spurs Primed For Deep Run


LOS ANGELES — Gregg Popovich still maintains that as soon as Tim Duncan decides to walk away he’ll be right behind him and happily disappear into the San Antonio sunset.

The good news for Spurs fans who have grown up or grown old with the most successful coach-player duo in NBA history, now in their 16th season together, is they aren’t going anywhere soon.

“He plays like he’s six or seven or eight years younger than he is,” Popovich said. “He’s really just a miracle in my mind.”

That’s what some thought it would take just a few seasons ago for the Spurs with an aging Big Three of Duncan, 37, Tony Parker, 30, and Manu Ginobili, 35, to again be title contenders. They were swept out of the second round by Phoenix in 2010 and then unceremoniously ushered out the next season as the top seed in a first-round upset against Memphis.

Parker openly pondered the direction of the franchise at that point just as rumors persisted that he could be traded. He questioned if the team’s age and makeup could still allow it to compete in a Western Conference transitioning to younger, faster and more athletic, headed by two rising stars in Oklahoma City.

Duncan didn’t need to hear concern from Parker to know that the times were changing, and he needed to change with them.

After averaging just 12.7 points in that 2011 first-round loss, Duncan immersed himself in self-evaluation, analyzing everything from where he’s most effective on the floor, to his conditioning, to his weight and nutrition.

He said the lockout, while it hindered many players’ workout routines and stunted their seasons, actually worked in his favor: “Just having that extra time to really focus on getting my game back and getting my body in the right shape that I wanted it to be.

“I changed a lot,” Duncan said following Sunday’s completion of a first-round sweep of a frustrated Dwight Howard and the depleted Los Angeles Lakers. “I understand that my game was changing, trying to extend my game on the floor, understanding where I’m going to be getting my shots, understand that I needed to get some weight off my body so that I could take some of the pressure off my knee. And it worked well for me.”

This season Duncan produced his highest scoring average (17.8), field-goal percentage (50.2), rebounding average (9.9) and minutes (30.1) in three seasons. His 2.7 blocks per game were a career-best, as was his 81.7 percent free throw shoooting, a remarkable leap for a career 69.3-percent foul shooter.

Against L.A. he delivered an array of post moves, spins, jumpers and one mighty alley-oop jam that caught his teammates by surprise.

“I thought he was going to be done after that play,” Parker said, smiling. “His back or something like that would give out on him.”

And so here are the Spurs once again, following up on last season’s run to the West finals, a six-game loss in what always seems to be Duncan’s last, best shot at a fifth title. They’ll be well-rested and favored in the second round against either a young and energetic Golden State squad or a Denver team that will have gone the distance to dig out of a 3-1 hole.

With the top-seeded Thunder wounded, the second-seeded Spurs must now be considered the favorite to emerge from the West.

“We’re getting there,” Duncan said after averaging 17.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and shooting 51.7 percent from the floor against the Lakers. “Obviously this series went well for us. We didn’t end the year well, but the bottom line is it really doesn’t matter how you end the year. This is a good start for us. We like the pace we’re at now, we like the rhythm we’re at now, we like how healthy we are right now and hopefully we can stay that way.”

Only a few weeks ago Duncan and Popovich expressed concern about its own health after a loss at OKC. Old questions of age and durability were cropping up again as Ginobili sat out hurt. Parker was dealing with multiple ailments and had to be removed from that game and faced an uncertain return. Boris Diaw needed back surgery. The team surprisingly released Stephen Jackson.

Yet, there was Duncan, spry and free of physical distress, averaging more minutes this season when Popovich’s desire over the last several has been to limit him more, an All-Star again for the 14th time.

“He’s a really gifted individual as far as his mental capacity is concerned,” Popovich said. “He really has a mature outlook in the sense that he knows what it takes to play at that age. He enjoys the responsibility and takes it seriously 12 months a year and that’s why he’s able to do what he does at this point in his career. His maturity level and commitment are both very unique.”

As Duncan altered his approach the last two seasons, becoming leaner and quicker, especially evident in his defense and 9.9 rebounds a game, his best mark in three seasons, Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford went about reconstructing the team.

The stodgy defensive model complemented by a methodical offense that ran through Duncan was ditched. Young sharpshooters and scrappy, unheralded role players were acquired to form a precision-based, team-oriented and highly efficient offensive attack that surged to became one of the highest-scoring in the league.

Additions like second-year forward Kawhi Leonard helped improve a faltering defense, making San Antonio an all-around threat to run through the West and arguably the best equipped to challenge the Miami Heat in a seven-game series.

Still, the key remains the ever-present Duncan, even as the Spurs’ strategy altered emphasis on him.

In the opening minutes of Game 3, Duncan set the tone for the two games in L.A. that the Spurs would win by 52 points. A 3.2 earthquake was registered just as Duncan snared an alley-oop pass from Danny Green with his fully outstretched right arm rising well above the rim and then he emphatically dunked it.

“That makes sense now,” the self-deprecating Duncan said when told of the simultaneous earthquake. “It lowered the rim.”

Green instinctively launched the pass to the open man, but then quickly grew concerned as he realized the recipient was an old man with bad knees.

“I threw it and when I saw that it was Tim, I was like hopefully he can catch it and come down with it and make a play,” Green said. “But he caught it and threw that thing down.”

For the Big Fundamental, it was no big thing.

“I used to do it a lot, back in the day,” Duncan said. “Fifteen, 20 years ago.”

Where’s Manu? One More Jazz Worry

SALT LAKE CITY – Here’s a scary thought for the Jazz: What if Manu shows up?

Two games and two thumpings of Utah into the playoffs, the Spurs still haven’t gotten much production out of Manu Ginobili. As his teammates have built their 2-0 lead in the series, Ginobili has shot just 5-for-16, scored 11 points and committed seven turnovers.

“I didn’t play good the first two games,” Ginobili said. “Everybody saw that. I want to get it back in Game 3.

“The good thing is that we are a good team. You don’t need individuals. You need a group to stand by you and play well. When your team is doing so good, your mistakes and the bad game I had is totally unimportant. I’m proud to see the team play like that.”

Not that the Spurs are reaching for the panic button. On the contrary, since Ginobili first went to the sidelines with a broken bone in his hand on Jan. 2, returned to the lineup and suffered from a hip flexor injury and ultimately missed 32 of the 66 games in the compacted regular season schedule, the thought all along has been that Ginobili could actually be fresher and more effective in the playoffs than he has been in years. Especially if the Spurs make a deep run into June that tests the stamina of everyone.

So far, it’s been Tony Parker terrorizing the Jazz with 16-for-29 shooting for 46 points and 17 assists, while Tim Duncan has kicked in 29 points and 24 rebounds. With the Spurs also getting 16-for-39 shooting from behind the 3-point line, it would almost seem that adding Ginobili to the mix would be piling on. But that’s exactly what they expect.

“Game 1, he missed a couple of shots, but he still had a good game,” Parker said. “Game 2, we won by a lot, so he didn’t play that much. I’m not really worried. I know when we need him, he’s going to be there.”

One more thing for the Jazz to worry about.

Grit and grind one more time?

MEMPHIS — The Thunder beat up the Grizzlies and then the Grizzlies beat up themselves.

“We got embarrassed,” said Mike Conley.

“We didn’t have it,” said Shane Battier. “The ubiquitous ‘it.’ Whatever ‘it’ is, we didn’t have it.”

So it’s been a fun ride, but now the Grizzlies are at the edge of the cliff.

That’s how everyone sees it.

Everyone, that is, except the Grizzlies.

“The series is not over,” said Memphis coach Lionel Hollins. “I’m sure a lot of you guys are writing about it being over. I still believe in my team. I’m sure we’ll come back and regroup … and be ready.”

“He says this is where we find out who we are,” said Conley. “Find out the kind of people we are. What kind of players we are. Because you don’t know until your back is against the wall, and everything is up for grabs. This will be a good test for us.”

The Grizzlies, down 3-2 in the best-of-seven, will have to be ready for Game 6 on Friday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN) with much more enthusiasm and energy than they could summon for Game 5. Whether it was the product of a physical and emotional hangover from the triple-overtime Game 4 or a surge in confidence by the Thunder, for the first time in the series there was a clear difference between the two teams.

The Grizzlies insist that it’s not the Thunder defense that’s been the difference, but their own lack of aggressiveness at going to the basket and finishing. They missed 18 layups in Game 5

“We missed shots. I don’t think it’s nothing special they’re doing,” said Zach Randolph, who has shot just 22-for-69 in the last four games.

Through the first four games, the Grizzlies had actually outscored the Thunder by two cumulative points and dominated OKC on the offensive glass. But Game 5 was a complete collapse. Now the Grizzlies face the challenge of proving that they belong for the first time since the playoffs began a month ago.


Memphis-OKC: Small markets, big game

OKLAHOMA CITY — They know how the outside world will view them, as the annoying little brother, the other guys.

The Lakers vs. Mavs will have Kobe vs. Dirk, a pair of individual virtuosos and offensive machines who can melt scoreboards with their point production, not to mention Phil Jackson vs. Mark Cuban, who’ve both been known to intentionally start fires.

The Bulls vs. Hawks will have the continued ascension – and possibly the official coronation – of Derrick Rose into the realm of the elite as the youngest MVP in history and youngest player ever to make the entire horde of TV analysts run out of adjectives.

The Heat vs. Celtics will, of course, have enough breathless conversation to suck the air right out of the room.

Then there’s Grizzlies vs. Thunder. Oh yeah, them. No. 4 vs. No. 8 in the Western Conference, a matchup between two of the smallest markets in the NBA who’ll be lucky if anyone even notices they’re playing.

That is, until the ball goes up. Don’t make the mistake of grabbing the remote and changing the channel.

“I hope that people appreciate teams that play hard and play well together,” said the Grizzlies’ Shane Battier. “We may not have a whole lot of marquee names. But both Oklahoma and our team play very well together, play hard, play the right way. If you’re a basketball fan you should enjoy this series.”


Spurs’ hope: The return of Parker

MEMPHIS – There was much for the Spurs to celebrate in the way Game 5 ended, not the least of which were the five wild points they scored in the last 2.2 seconds of the fourth quarter that forced overtime and led to their victory.

First, Manu Ginobili hit his improbable shot from right in front of the San Antonio bench, when he admittedly could not even see the rim. Then there was rookie Gary Neal’s 25-footer that settled into the net as time expired.

But those were fleeting moments. If there is a larger reason for the Spurs to be jubilant and hopeful, it was the return of Tony Parker to being his typically effective self.


Remember the Alam-oh-no! Again.

SAN ANTONIO – The last time it was Mario Chalmers. This time it was Gary Neal.

What is it about the Alamo City that leaves basketball teams from Memphis feeling like they’ve just been visited by Santa Anna’s army?

It was the 2008 NCAA championship game just up the road when Chalmers hit a high, arcing jumper for Kansas that forced overtime and eventually sent the Memphis Tigers to defeat.

This time it was Neal, the undrafted, 26-year-old rookie who buried the shot that sent Game 5 into overtime and saved the Spurs from an early grave.

In 2008, Derrick Rose made the mistake of missing free throws that held the door open for Kansas.

On Wednesday night, Zach Randolph made the mistake of putting a finger to his lips to tell the San Antonio crowd it was over when it wasn’t after he hit a step-back jumper with 13.8 seconds left to play.

Oh, there were lessons to be learned by the young Grizzlies.

When the Spurs inbounded the ball with 1.7 seconds remaining on the fourth quarter clock, the Grizzlies ignored coach Lionel Hollins’ instructions and none of them came out to guard the 3-point line.

When Neal’s shot went in and the game went to overtime, none of the Grizzlies had the fire within to keep competing.

“I think that we were down after the loss of the lead when they tied it up at the end,” Hollins said. “We had too many guys that were hurt and not mature enough at this stage to just let it go.”

Sometimes, this is how a series can turn. This is how history gets made. One play, one shot, one moment that slips through your grasp.

Now the Grizzlies have to let it go. They have to shake off the uppercut that floored them in time for Game 6. They can’t simply rely on the crowd that will be packed inside FedEx Forum to lift their spirits. They’ve got to go back to being the aggressive, hungry, attacking bunch that keeps on playing all the way to the end.

Or else it’s back to San Antonio, where the ghosts of Memphis basketball will be waiting.

Grizzlies’ confidence no fake

MEMPHIS — Tony Allen loves to talk about backyard basketball.

“It’s pullin’, grabbin’, scratchin, divin’ on loose balls, takin’ charges,” he says.

It’s also trash-talking.

Which is what Allen is doing when he questions whether the injury to Manu Ginobili’s right elbow is legitimate.

“It’s for the birds,” he said. “Everybody is banged up. You don’t see me running to my PR guy telling him about an injury.”

First, the Grizzlies got inside the Spurs’ game and now they’re trying to get inside the Spurs’ heads.

This is no longer a happy little Cinderella story where the No. 8 seed in the West was happy to get a win over the No. 1 seed. Now the Grizzlies have a 2-1 lead and are believing they can take San Antonio down.

The Spurs have been able to stay with the rough and rugged Grizzlies on the boards. They have been able to keep turnovers down. They have been able to limit Memphis’ scoring to an acceptable level.

But until the Spurs find a way to get their backcourt combination of Tony Parker and Ginobili to bust loose, they’re going to teeter closer to the edge of a shocking upset.

The Spurs have trailed 2-1 in a playoff series 12 times in their history. They have come back to win in that situation only once – vs. New Orleans in 2008.

They keep telling themselves there is plenty of time to for everything to be alright, but doubts keep creeping in.

So now here is Allen calling Ginobili a faker, as if any NBA All-Star would choose to play with a bulky, restrictive brace covering most of one arm.

“That’s his opinion,” Ginobili said. “I really don’t care.”

But it’s not really about what Allen says. It’s what he feels. It’s what all of the Grizzlies are feeling. There’s a confidence they can beat the Spurs.

And that’s no fake.