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.”
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is just 20 years old. He’s a League Pass favorite, and indeed he should be a favorite in Phoenix for years to come. On Friday, Booker dropped 70 points — yes, 70 — in a loss to the Boston Celtics.
Booker’s 70 points is the best outing of the season. It also made him the youngest player to ever reach 70 points.
His final stat line, as you might imagine, was ridiculous. Booker shot 21-of-40 from the field, going 4-of-11 on 3-pointers and a whopping 24-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Suns phenom also grabbed eight rebounds to go with six assists.
Despite the loss to Boston, 130-120, it’s still an incredible milestone for Phoenix and for Booker. There’s a bright spot out there for the Suns.
Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.
As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.
Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.
Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.
Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.
Maybe a little too pumped.
That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.
Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.
(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)
The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.
While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”
Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”
We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.
Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.