NBA Playoffs: Shaq, Duncan, Kobe, and the one for the thumb

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At Spurs blog Pounding the Rock, a discussion for today’s Game 4 centers around a plea from a fan to not allow the Spurs’ dynasty to die. But a line caught my eye.

“I don’t want it to be over. I so desperately want to see Tim (Duncan) get his
fifth ring (before Shaq, before Kobe, oh please, before them). Man
I want that so much.”

It kind of speaks to what’s on the line for those three players. While the final count will undoubtedly be the biggest factor, you have to wonder how many more chances these three legends will have.

The Spurs are looking at three years without a Finals appearance, and Duncan’s not getting any younger, let alone Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Duncan has put together the most consistent performance of the three, consistently leading his team to the late playoffs. But partly because he played in San Antonio and nowhere sexy like Miami or LA, he’s still not considered by mainsteam media in the same range. But getting the fifth ring before he retires would be a considerable step, and especially to do so before the other two. Doing so without the extravagant payrolls in LA or having another superstar like Wade or LeBron would set him apart.

For Shaq, this has to be his last real hurrah, unless the Cavs re-sign him out of gratitude in the event of a championship. He always held the trump-card in the Kobe-Shaq debate with the fourth ring, but of course, Kobe’s negated that. He’s not competing with Duncan, simply on star-power. His legacy is largely decided, the fifth would only cement him and ensure he’s not surpassed in retrospective. He’s no longer a real force in the game, but getting the thumb ring first gives him bragging rights, and let’s face it. That means a lot to him.

Bryant? Bryant has more chances. You can realistically count on the Lakers being in contention for at least two more seasons. But this season has brought with it the very real fact that Mamba is mortal. He’s turned it back on versus the Jazz (because, well, they’re the Jazz), but his struggles physically have been very evident. Getting five this year means that if they Lakers wee to slip or the Thunder or Cavs to continue rising that his legacy is assured.

Again, we’re talking degrees. Three Hall of Famers, three champions, three legends. But that race to the fifth does mean something. It sure looks at this point like Duncan will not be the first. Shaq and Kobe are still in the race, and if the Finals come down to those two, you can expect to hear about it a million times.

Turns out five may be the magic number.

LeBron says he knows teams are adding players because “they want to beat me”

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 10:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers enjoys a laugh during a timeout against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on October 10, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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LeBron James is the best player on the planet when he dials it up, and he reminded every one of that leading his Cavaliers to the NBA title last season.

On the other side of the scale, after losing the title, the Golden State Warriors reloaded by adding Kevin Durant to a roster that already won 73 games and went to Game 7 of the NBA Finals last season. Along those same lines, the Spurs added Pau Gasol to replace Tim Duncan, and the Celtics picked up Al Horford to bolster a strong young team.

Joe Varden of The Cleveland Plain Dealer asked LeBron what he thought of all these teams stacking up.

“I know teams switch and pick up new coaches or new players, and their whole goal is kind of they want to beat me,” James told, in a candid discussion about the upcoming year and his place in the sport at age 31, in this his 14th season. “It’s never just about me, but I always hear them saying, ‘We gotta beat LeBron.’ It’s not just me on the court, but I understand that teams get together in this conference and across the league to try to beat me.”

If anyone should be used to having a target on his back, it’s LeBron.

And he’s not wrong.

The Warriors adding Durant was all styming how Cleveland and everyone else can defend the Warriors — particularly the small-ball “death lineup.” Oklahoma City and Cleveland had success putting their best defensive forward (Durant of OKC and LeBron for Clevealnd) on Draymond Green and switiching his pick-and-roll with Curry, then hoping Harrison Barnes didn’t make their big pay in a mismatch. Barnes couldn’t, it worked.

Now take out Barnes and put in Durant. Good luck defending that lineup now.

LeBron is right, the Warriors did target him. He’s the champ. He and the Cavaliers are the bar to clear. Can he and Cleveland rise up o task is the real question.

NBA TV host Kristen Ledlow says she was robbed at gunpoint

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 14:  TV Personality Kristen Ledlow participates in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game 2014 at New Orleans Arena on February 14, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
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ATLANTA (AP) — NBA TV personality Kristen Ledlow says she was robbed at gunpoint at her home.

The host of “NBA Inside Stuff” said on Twitter and Instagram Sunday that she was held up the day before “by three men who knew who I was, where I lived and were waiting for me when I got home.”

She says in addition to stealing her car, purse and phone, the thieves took her “sense of security.” She says she’ll be taking a break from social media as a result of the incident because she says she “will not become a slave to fear.”

Ledlow didn’t say where the incident took place. NBA TV is based in Atlanta.

Report: Pistons claim Beno Udrih off Miami’s waivers

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 26: A portrait of Beno Udrih #9 of the Miami Heat on September 26, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Miami felt set at point guard with Goran Dragic starting and the up-and-coming Tyler Johnson as his backup. They decided veteran Beno Udrih wasn’t part of the future and waived him.

Detroit, looking for some help at the one until Reggie Jackson returns, saw a dependable veteran guard on the market. So they snapped him up, reports Shams Charnaria of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

At age 34 we are seeing Udrih’s game start to slip. Still, he has valuable NBA skills as a point guard: he doesn’t turn the ball over, can run an offense, and if you ignore him coming off a pick he will bury the shot.

Jackson is expected to be out at least another six weeks after getting PRP therapy to deal with knee tendonitis (he hopes to be back sooner). That leaves Ish Smith as the starting point guard in the short term; Udrih will help provide solid depth at the position.

The Pistons need to keep their heads above water until Jackson can return.

NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement could run to 2024

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The first 12 years of the NBA’s salary-cap era went without a lockout. The league again avoided a lockout for a dozen straight years between 1999 to 2011.

Now, with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement coming soon, the NBA is setting itself up for another 12 years of labor peace.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The NBA and National Basketball Players Association are working on a seven-year extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, with a mutual opt-out in six years, league sources told The Vertical.

The seven-year deal could potentially deliver the NBA labor peace through the 2023-24 season, unless the opt-outs are exercised in 2022, league sources told The Vertical.

The new CBA will begin with the 2017-18 season.

Expect an opt out after six years. By then, there’s usually something to renegotiate.

Hope for another quick resolution, like we’re getting now.

And if neither the owners nor players opt out, be pleasantly surprised at an unprecedented 13th straight year without a lockout in this era.