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 release of NBA 2K17, the latest edition of the popular 2K video-game series, is less than a month away. Players are starting to get their likenesses in the game, as well as their player ratings, and tweet them out. Magic forward Evan Fournier wasn’t too happy with the way his came out.
Fournier’s countryman Rudy Gobert got in on the fun, too, changing his Twitter avatar to Fournier’s screenshot and encouraging others to do the same. He even created a hashtag for it.
At least they’re having fun with it.
On Friday, the Jazz traded German center Tibor Pleiss to the Sixers along with two second-round picks for Kendall Marshall. The big draw of the trade for Philly was the picks, and Pleiss is not expected to stay with the Sixers, according to Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia’s Jessica Camerato.
Pleiss had a forgettable season with Utah, and the Sixers have a glut of bigs including Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. It would have been virtually impossible for Pleiss to crack the rotation, and it’s unlikely another team picks up his contract, which has $3 million guaranteed this season.
As a Jordan Brand athlete, Russell Westbrook is under the same Nike umbrella as former teammate Kevin Durant. But his latest Jordan spot, released Friday, has a very pointed tagline: “Some run, some make runways.”
Given the circumstances, it’s hard to interpret that as anything other than a reference to Durant signing with the Warriors and Westbrook signing an extension with the Thunder.
For two decades, Kobe Bryant saw everyone and everything as an obstacle to overcome: The Pacers, Sixers, Nets, Magic, Celtics, Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich, Smush Parker, a torn Achilles. It didn’t matter. Kobe’s work ethic and drive had him rising above it all.
His focus hasn’t changed now. Kobe was on the Jim Rome show, and the topic of the new-look Warriors with Kevin Durant came up, along with the “woe is me” attitude of some players (and plenty of owners and GMs).
“I would have thought less about myself if I looked at that move and said, ‘That’s unfair,'” he said. “If you’re a real competitor, you look at that and say, ‘OK, lace ’em up. Let’s go. I don’t care how many players you have over there; we’re still going to take you down.'”
Easier said than done to make that happen, but that attitude is the only one to have if you think you have a chance. You can be sure LeBron James is thinking that way and telling his Cavaliers teammates the same.
We’re going to miss Kobe.