Manu Ginobili, DeJuan Blair look like starters in San Antonio

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It just feels wrong.

It’s not going to change things really; the Spurs will be the Spurs. Maybe even a little better version of the Spurs. But this starting five just feels weird:

Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, Tim Duncan, DeJuan Blair.

Coach Gregg Popovich has not settled on that yet according to the San Antonio Express News, but it’s starting to look that way.

Starter Manu Ginobili. Not really used to that. Sure, he started 22 games last season, but the Spurs were always at their best when he was coming off the bench fresh when everyone else was just a little winded

But this doesn’t change much. In crunch time, Ginobili was always in there. Starter, sixth man, he role will largely be the same, it’s just how the minutes are divided up.

But Blair in the frontcourt with Duncan is a change. Last season it was Antonio McDyess who was the big man up front doing the dirty work that let Duncan be Duncan. Now it’s Blair — who is better at the dirty work. Popovich is right to be concerned that Blair can’t spread the floor with a jumper, allowing teams to clog the lane more easily, but this is still the right move. More Blair, Less McDyess the better.

However, it also leaves you with a 6’7” center… well, we all know he’s a forward and Duncan is the center. The Spurs can define it however they wish. But it doesn’t change the problem that against the elite — the Lakers, Celtics Magic, even the Mavericks in the West — that creates matchup problems.

The Spurs need 6’11” Tiago Splitter to step up if they are going to really take a step forward. The Brazilian rookie has plenty of international experience, but right now he is sidelined with a strained right plantaris muscle. He should be back soon, but his absence combined with Blair’s nose for the ball and hard work means Splitter is coming off the bench.

Blair and Ginobili are the starters. Still sounds odd.

Hawks sign two-way Tyler Cavanaugh to standard contract

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ATLANTA (AP) — Rookie forward Tyler Cavanaugh, who originally came to Atlanta on a two-way contract, has signed a multi-year deal with the Hawks.

Cavanaugh has averaged 5.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in 19 games, including one start, since signing the two-way contract on Nov. 5.

Cavanaugh, from Syracuse, New York, played two seasons at Wake Forest before transferring to George Washington, where he averaged 18.3 points and 8.4 rebounds last season. He was selected the National Invitation Tournament Most Outstanding Player in 2016 after leading the Colonials to the NIT title.

 

Carlos Boozer announces retirement

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Carlos Boozer went from being known as a gritty second-rounder to an overpaid defensive liability.

In some ways, that’s the ultimate success story.

Now, after playing last season in China, he’s walking away.

Boozer on ESPN:

I’m officially retired.

The Cavaliers drafted Boozer with the No. 35 pick in the 2002. After he spent a couple productive seasons in Cleveland, the Cavs declined his cheap team option to make him a restricted free agent – with an agreement he’d re-sign at a reasonable rate if you ask them, with no handshake deal if you ask him.

Boozer bolted for the Jazz, who gave him a six-year, $68 million contract. He made a couple All-Star teams and helped Utah reach the conference finals.

Then, he went to Chicago on a five-year, $75 million contract after the Bulls struck out on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in 2010. The Derrick Rose-led Bulls never broke through, and Boozer was often the scapegoat.

Chicago amnestied him, and he spent his last NBA season with the Lakers three years ago.

Boozer was a pretty good player paid like a very good one, and that didn’t endear him. We mostly remember him for accidentally punching a referee below the belt:

Painting on hair:

And yelling “and one!” after nearly every shot.

For a while, it seemed the 36-year-old Boozer wanted to play another NBA season. But he finally could no longer find a front office eager to pay him.

It’s only fitting that he was denied that last “and one!”

Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis still not talking off court

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The Bulls are 5-0 since Nikola Mirotic returned from an injury suffered when Bobby Portis punched him in the face during a preseason practice. Mirotic and Portis are both excelling individually, and Chicago has outscored opponents by a whopping 34.3 points per 100 possessions when those two share the court.

Jack Maloney of CBSSports.com:

When asked if the two former combatants have spoken yet, Mirotic said, “We did on the floor. We’ve always spoken because we need to have good communication.” As for whether they’ve talked off the floor, however, Mirotic was succinct in his response: “No.”

I guess Mirotic hasn’t completely moved on, though he said he did. But that’s fine. How could someone get past a teammate punching him in the face?

Importantly, this is becoming just a regular NBA problem. The extent of that practice punch was practically unprecedented. But plenty of players have loathed teammates while making it work on the court. That happens more than people realize.

Mirotic and Portis can make this their status quo – at least the on-court cooperation. I’m not convinced Chicago will keep winning like this.

Watch Kobe Bryant’s ‘Dear Basketball’ short film (video)

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Kobe Bryant announced his retirement in a letter called “Dear Basketball,” which was made into a short film.

Now, on the day the Lakers retire his Nos. 8 and 24, you can watch it. It’s quite beautiful: