Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker

Five reasons these are not last year’s Spurs, they are contenders


Last season, the Spurs won 61 games, went into the playoffs as the top seed thought of as contenders, then got unceremoniously bounced in the first round because they could not handle the big, athletic front line of the Memphis Grizzlies.

This season, the Spurs are again entering the playoffs as the top seed and are talked about as contenders. They again face a first-round opponent with a big front line — the Utah Jazz — and some think the same thing will happen again.

The Spurs may not make the NBA finals, but they are real contenders this year. Here are five reasons this year is different than last.

1) Manu Ginobili is healthy. Ginobili is what turns the Spurs offense from “good” to “best in the NBA” and he was out last season but is back healthy this season. (The entire city of San Antonio just knocked on wood.) What makes him so dangerous is that can take whatever the defense gives — he can knock down threes, drive the lane (left or right), is solid from the midrange, plays well in transition and… you get the point. He also shoots well in the clutch. This is the guy that makes the Spurs special and he is back this year.

2) Tony Parker is playing the best ball of his career. He should be in the MVP discussion this year. Not saying he should win it (that’s LeBron James) but Parker should be in the conversation. Parker leads the Spurs in scoring (18.3 points per game, a number he stepped up when Ginobili was out) and is also at a career high in assists — when he is on the floor he assists on 40 percent of his teammates baskets. Parker gets an offense based on cuts and off-ball movement going, he is at the heart of their rapid ball movement side to side. He simply is better this season than last.

3) San Antonio depth and athleticism — this is a team. This was the knock on them since 2004 — they were old and no longer athletic enough to play with the elite teams in the league. But that’s not the case anymore, they have rookie Kawhi Leonard, they bring in youth with DeJuan Blair, Danny Green and Gary Neal, plus Tiago Splitter has taken a step forward and given them a solid big man to put in the middle. Combine that with a shooter like Matt Bonner (plus they have Stephen Jackson now) and they can throw a lot of different matchups at you. The amazing part is how little drop off there is in execution from the first to second unit.

The turning point for the Spurs may have come at the end of January this season when the starters were getting smoked by Dallas and when the bench made a comeback Popovich rode them all the way through into the overtime. And lost. But since then this team has rallied as a unit and the depth has been part of that.

4) Tim Duncan found the fountain of youth down by the Riverwalk. Tim Duncan never has been bad, but he had seemed to take a step back in recent years from great to solid. He was always fundamentally sound, but he seemed older and a step slow. Since the All-Star break he has seemed a threat again. Maybe that is him getting better looks thanks to the Spurs fantastic ball movement, but whatever it is it is working. And if Duncan is on the Spurs are on.

5) These Jazz are not those Grizzlies. This Utah team is playing well and we’ve all fallen in love around the NBA blogosphere with their big lineup of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors together. No doubt, that lineup is good — but it is not as good as the level the Grizzlies were playing at last year. Zach Randolph was probably the best single player in the first round last year, he was a force of nature. I like Jefferson, but his ceiling is not that high. These Jazz also don’t defend like those Grizzlies did.

It is possible the Spurs will see the Grizzlies again in the second round. And that would be a fun matchup. But the Grizzlies are going to find out these Spurs are a lot better now than those ones they knocked off last year. These Spurs are legitimate contenders.

Patrick Patterson begs: “Please don’t make Space Jam 2”

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LeBron James‘ production company signed a development deal with Warner Bros. That would be the same Warner Bros. which extended its trademark on “Space Jam” recently. Rumors of LeBron starring in Space Jam 2 have been swirling for years. If they do it, Blake Griffin wants in.

Patrick Patterson wants the entire thing to stop.

Writing at The Players’ Tribune, the Raptors forward begs for there not to be a sequel to the Michael Jordan original.

I’m a huge movie fan. Movies are a big part of my life. This summer I even had the opportunity to help cover the Toronto International Film Festival for the CBC. So please know that I don’t say this lightly: The original Space Jam is the perfect movie. The. Perfect. Movie. It is a cinematic experience.

And that’s why, for the sake of preserving its greatness, we must never try to improve upon it.

To make a sequel to Space Jam would be like trying to paint the Mona Lisa again. Sure, you can probably do it, but why the hell would you want to?

First off, not sure the realism of Renaissance art is the best comparison for Space Jam. It was more cubist Picasso at best.

But I appreciate what Patterson is saying. If someone decided to remake “Godfather II” I’d march in protest. If they decided to remake “Network” I’d… actually, that’s pretty much what the news looks like now.

Patterson’s love of Space Jam exceeds mine (he calls Bill Murray the glue guy of the film), and I respect that. But this sequel is happening, and even Patterson knows why — money. A lot of people are going to make a lot of money on this movie, even if it gets a 28% at Rotten Tomatoes.  Warner Bros. is not in the business of making good movies, it’s in the business of making money through movies, and franchises go a long way down that road for studios.

Let’s just hope the take the time to get a decent script together for this. Nobody wants another Godfather III on our hands.

Atlanta Hawks waive Jarrett Jack

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 28: Jarrett Jack #2 of the Brooklyn Nets dribbles during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on December 28, 2015 in Miami, Florida. 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. Mandatory copyright notice:  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Last summer, the Atlanta Hawks signed Jarrett Jack to provide a veteran backup for Dennis Schroder.

But Jack has not recovered from the major knee injury that ended his season after 32 games. He hadn’t played with the Hawks throughout the preseason.

Thursday, the Hawks waived Jack, the team announced. He had a guaranteed contract for the veteran minimum (just less than $1 million), and he will still get paid. The Hawks just wanted the roster space and didn’t see him returning soon enough to help them.

If he can get healthy and prove it, another team will likely grab him during the season (some team will suffer point guard injuries and be in the market). For now, he has a lot of rehab in his future.

Malcolm Delaney, the former Virginia Tech star who spent the last five seasons playing overseas, will not be the Hawks backup point.

Report: New CBA deal “within sight,” one-and-done rule remians

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 23:  Commissioner Adam Silver concludes the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 23, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. 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 Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Nobody likes the NBA’s one-and-done rule. Adam Silver and the owners want to extend that to two seasons out of high school, and they have colleges in their corner (while a couple of coaches know how to work the one-and-done system, none of them prefer it). The players want to be able to make the leap from high school straight to the NBA — if you’re 18 and good enough to play, you should be allowed to play.

The result of that will be the compromise nobody loves will stay in place.

The league and NBA’s players union met again on Thursday, and the two sides got close to a deal, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Also, the rookie and veteran minimum scale deals will increase, plus the “over 36 rule” (which prohibits a player from signing a five-year deal if he turns 36 during the deal, it can only be four years) will be changed to an “over 38 rule” according to Wojnarowski.

We knew before today was the revenue split between the owners and players would remain the roughly 50-50 split agreed to in the last CBA — and once the money is figured out everything else usually falls in line. The players are pushing or a fund to help retired players who need assistance with medical and other expenses, that seems to have traction with the league as well.

Adam Silver is meeting with the NBA owners the next couple of days and much of the discussion will certainly center around what is in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. However, with all the money flooding the system with the new television deal — it wasn’t just the players getting an infusion of cash into salaries, the other half of the money went straight to the owners’ bottom lines — it’s expected a deal gets done. Nobody wants to kill the golden goose.

NBA to broadcast one game a week in virtual reality

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 13:  Customers try the new PlayStation VR at Sony Square NYC on October 13, 2016 in New York City.  Sony launched its $399 PlayStation VR that links to PlayStation 4  to give gamers a virtual reality gaming experience.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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If you’re already playing “Sonar” or “Feral Rites” or just “The Lab” in virtual reality, why not get a closeup look at Stephen Curry draining a deep three, or Rudy Gobert rejecting a shot at the rim. And I don’t mean in a video game.

The NBA is going to start broadcasting one game a week in virtual reality, the league announced Thursday. It has partnered with NextVR to broadcast at least one League Pass game a week in VR — the NBA is the first major professional league to do it (although NextVR did already do the U.S. Open tennis tournament, The Masters, and other big events).

If you have an NBA League Pass and a Samsung Gear VR headset (or compatible smartphone) you can pay to watch the games — but the first one is free. On Oct. 27 the Spurs visiting the Sacramento Kings fans can watch Kawhi Leonard shut down Ben McLemore in virtual reality for free.

From the NBA’s press release:

Fans with a Samsung Gear VR headset and a compatible Samsung smartphone can experience the free preview by accessing the NBA Channel within the NextVR app. Later this season, the offering will be expanded to support additional VR headset options.

The weekly games will be available as part of the NBA LEAGUE PASS full season package. Whether purchased through a third party distributor or directly through the NBA, fans will be able to authenticate their accounts by inputting their NBA LEAGUE PASS login credentials (obtained at or the NBA App) within NextVR’s app.

The VR broadcasts will be fully produced with dedicated announcers, multiple unmanned camera angles and optimized graphics. Game breaks will be filled with in-venue entertainment, behind-the-scenes footage from the arena and VR-specific commentary.

Sounds promising.

I’m not about to speculate on the popularity of this, but smart move by the NBA to get out in front of this and try it. You have to love that the NBA is adventurous and will push the market, the NFL probably won’t try this until 2036.