Spurs rodeo ride shows them to be average

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The legendary “rodeo trip” — when the San Antonio Spurs are forced into a long road trip because horses, bulls and cowboys fill the AT&T Center — is usually when the Spurs bond and start to make a run heading into the end of the season and the playoffs.

This year, not so much.

They return from this year’s rendition having gone a fitting 4-4, the same inconsistent ball of problems that left for Sacramento on Feb. 2.

At 31-23, the Spurs are seventh in the Western Conference, a game ahead of Portland, two ahead of ninth-place New Orleans and facing an upcoming schedule not exactly conducive to making an upward push.

For the first time in the Tim Duncan era, the Spurs are being forced to contemplate the postseason in terms of “if” and not “when.”

When they do make the playoffs, the Spurs likely will get bounced by Denver or Dallas in the first round. That will be the ultimate sign that attempts to keep the right pieces around the core — and keep the core healthy — have fallen well short. Richard Jefferson may have looked like a good move on paper but he doesn’t fit in. Roger Mason has been off. The list goes on and on.

But the biggest shock, and the biggest problem, is that the Spurs used to be one of the best defensive teams in the league, and now they are just average. They are 11th in the league in points given up per possession and they are 28th in creating turnovers (which means fewer easy tranistion baskets). The man defense on the wings, the crisp rotations, the unit thinking as one on defense is largely gone.

Basically, the Spurs have been playing like the AT&T Center smells for the week after the rodeo is in town, something Gregg Popovich described as “moist and earthy.” And that seems unlikely to change soon.

Jaylen Brown’s #drivebydunkchallenge video is awesome

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I love the drive by dunk challenge (if you prefer, the #drivebydunkchallenge), it would be the best thing on NBA Twitter this summer, if it wasn’t for Kyrie Irving.

But the best one yet comes from Boston’s Jaylen Brown.

He steals the ball, and the best part is the guy who comes over like he’s going to stop Brown from throwing it down.

Nets’ Jeremy Lin: ‘We’re making the playoffs. I don’t care what anybody else says’

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The Nets went 20-62 then traded their best player (Brook Lopez) for a worse player (D'Angelo Russell). Brooklyn’s biggest free-agent signing this summer (Otto Porter) plays for the Wizards. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert are nice developmental pieces but hardly seem on the verge of breakthroughs.

Still, Nets guard Jeremy Lin expects big things next season.

He set expectations in an Instagram Live video (hat tip: AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today):

We’re making the playoffs. I don’t care what anybody else says.

The Nets are on the right track given their asset constraints. Though worse than Lopez now, Russell – eight years younger and on a low-paying rookie-scale deal – is more valuable. Brooklyn made the favorable swap by absorbing Timofey Mozgov‘s awful contract, a wise use of assets considering the difficulty of attracting free agents. An aggressive offer sheet for Porter was a reasonable swing in that situation, as well.

But that’s all helpful in the long run. In the short term, the Nets are almost certainly stuck as lousy. Maybe they can sneak into the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference, but even that is a huge longshot.

Not that Lin cares what I say.

Check out Top 10 blocks from Summer League (VIDEO)

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When you think of Summer League basketball, sharp defensive rotations is not the first thing that comes to mind. Defense, in general, tends to be an after thought.

But there were some great blocks.

Here are the top 10 blocks from the Las Vegas Summer League. Enjoy the flashes of defense from Vegas.

 

Memphis Grizzlies sign former Oregon forward Dillon Brooks

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) The Memphis Grizzlies have signed former Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, a second-round pick in last month’s NBA draft.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Brooks was selected by the Houston Rockets with the 45th overall pick. The Grizzlies acquired him in exchange for a future second-round pick.

Brooks, 21, averaged 16.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists as a junior at Oregon last season. He was named the Pac-12 player of the year and helped Oregon earn its first Final Four berth since 1939.