Gregg Popovich admitted he holds his breath every time Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili step off a curb.
Things have gone about as well as the Spurs could hope for this season — including them having the same starting five for 55 of the 56 games. They have won 46 of those and looked every bit the title contender they have not been the past few years. Popovich admitted health has helped, especially when he looks at what the Celtics and other teams have had to go through.
“I keep thinking it has to balance out,” Popovich half joked.
Health is only part of it. Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan echoed the company line during interviews — the wins are nice, home court is nice, but they games that really matter are just starting.
Ginobili wouldn’t even commit that they are contenders.
“Too early to tell,” Ginobili said. “Usually in the year’s we’ve won, we’ve been great in March and April. That’s when we build out confidence and finish taking playoff shape. So far we’ve been the best in the beginning of the season, again, it’s not enough.”
Popovich called the Lakers the best in the West and said that the team needs to come out and play the second half of the season with the energy they did the first. Ginobili agreed the game is going to get more challenging.
“It is going to be hard, because we have a bulls-eye on the back now,” Ginobili said. “We are leading the NBA. Same with the Lakers or Celtics, everybody wants to beat you. They want to test themselves against the best in the league, so it’s going to be harder to maintain.
“But we don’t want had one of the great first half of the season. We want to complete it. We want to complete it, we want to win the championship.”
The Magic took a major risk trading for Serge Ibaka, who’s heading into unrestricted free agency next summer. Rather than have Victor Oladipo (who’ll be a restricted free agent) and the No. 11 pick (who’s on a four-year contract), Orlando could come away empty-handed within a year if Ibaka leaves.
So far, everyone is saying the right things.
Ibaka, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:
“I’m looking to stay here to play forever — for [as] many, many years as possible,” Serge Ibaka said during the Magic’s media day.
“I’m not really worried about my contract year or my long-term,” Ibaka said.
“One of the things I learned playing on a good team is when the team wins, when you make the playoffs, everybody looks good. So that’s what will be my focus right now, because if we win and make the playoffs, everything will take care of itself.”
Magic general manager Rob Hennigan, via Robbins:
“We certainly traded for Serge thinking long-term, and that’s our expectation,” Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said.
I’d be surprised if the Magic and Ibaka didn’t discuss the parameters of his next contract, with the Thunder’s permission, before making the trade. But the Collective Bargaining Agreement prevents any binding unofficial arrangements, so nothing is set in stone.
Ibaka is already talking about making the playoffs, and that would go a long way toward convincing him to stay in Orlando. But what if the Magic miss the postseason, a distinct possibility? How keen will Ibaka be on returning then?
He’ll have other suitors – unless he has a down year. Then, how badly will Orlando want him back?
That Ibaka and the Magic are entering the season with the stated intention of a long-term arrangement means something. But it means only so much.
“There are so many talented players in the league. But only a few of them are remembered as being great — because they were willing to say they don’t know. And I’m willing to say that I don’t know everything. I do not know how it is to be a great player, to be a Hall of Famer. I want to learn.”
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves (via Kyle Ratke on Twitter)
There were a lot of things to like about Towns’ rookie campaign — it was impressive enough to make him the clear Rookie of the Year — he averaged 18.3 points and 10.5 rebounds a game, shot 54.2 percent from the floor, and had a PER of 22.3.
But if you talk to people around the league, what really impressed them was his work ethic and drive. He puts in the time, he’s driven, and he listens. There’s a reason Kevin Garnett took to him.
KAT is going to be great. No question.
Jamaal Wilkes spent a brilliant basketball career always being overshadowed by an all-time great. At UCLA he won two titles and 88 straight games as part of John Wooden’s legacy on squads remembered as Bill Walton’s teams; in the NBA he won championships on teams led by Rick Berry first, then Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Look at it this way: when the Lakers clinched the NBA title in Game 6 of the 1980 Finals, Wilkes had 37 points and 10 rebounds. But what do we remember from that game? Magic scoring 42 points with 15 rebounds and 7 assists as he played all five positions.
Wilkes finally was recognized for his greatness when he was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame back in 2012.
This week he put his Hall of Fame ring up for auction online via Nate Sanders and got $25,000 for it. From the official press release:
The 10k Jostens ring features a diamond set on a square red stone. “Basketball Hall of Fame” is engraved in the gold surrounding the stones. Wilkes’ name is engraved on one side above two basketball players in relief. The opposite side has the year “2012” engraved above the Hall of Fame’s official logo.
The ring comes with a letter of authenticity from Wilkes.
Wilkes had previously auctioned off his Hall of Fame trophy, too.
The Bucks are coached by one of the greatest point guards in NBA history, Jason Kidd. But Kidd invited another legend of the position to camp to work with his point guards. John Stockton, the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals, was at Bucks practice on Thursday working with Michael Carter-Williams, Matthew Dellavedova and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Not a bad person to learn from, especially since the Bucks have one of the weakest point-guard positions in the league.