Thunder remind Spurs, everyone they are contenders with rout

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The Oklahoma City Thunder would like to remind you that they are a very, very good basketball team.

For days now the buzz had been about the Spurs’ 20-game win streak, how they played like the old man at the YMCA that schools the more athletic kids with the extra pass and smart positioning.

But the Thunder are not inexperienced kids, they are a title contenders and reminded San Antonio of that — and maybe reminded themselves of that — as they routed the Spurs 102-82. The win makes this a 2-1 series in favor of the Spurs and sets up a huge Game 4 on Saturday night in OKC. It was a dramatic end to the Spurs’ streak.

We’ve got a real series now.

For the first time this series, the Thunder looked like the young athletic team that could overwhelm the old Spurs. Kevin Durant seemed to be everywhere, as did Thabo Sefolosha. The Thunder put on an offensive show with some beautiful fast breaks and powerful dunks.

But that’s not what this game was about.

“Defensively, that was about well as you can play against the best team in basketball,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of his team’s effort. “And everybody did it throughout every possession.”

For two games the Spurs torched the Thunder defense. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili got free off picks and drove into the paint, either scoring or kicking out to an open man who made the extra pass for an open corner three. Or, Parker would pull back and hit the jumper. Or Parker would pull back and hit a rolling Tim Duncan. The Spurs just got the shot they wanted.

Oklahoma City changed lineups, changed strategy and blew that up. They sat Fisher more and played Sefolosha on the ball handler, then switched every pick-and-roll — and they did it with a physicality and energy lacking in the first two games. OKC cut off the Spurs’ penetration — the Spurs had six points in the paint in the first half. San Antonio’s ball movement went away. Its ability to reset the play went away with the pressure. The result was the Spurs were doing more isolation with Tim Duncan and others.

That defense worked from the start, when the Thunder went on an 8-0 run to open the game. The Spurs shot 39.5 percent and had 21 turnovers in the game. Sefolosha had six steals by himself. Only two Spurs scored in double digits.

Oklahoma City turned all those misses and turnovers into fast-break opportunities. They got out and ran and got looks closer to the basket because of it. Durant had 22 points and James Harden 15, but Sefolosha added 19 (including four threes) and Serge Ibaka had 14.

The pressure now shifts to the Spurs, who must make the offensive adjustments — they have to find a way to use Sefolosha’s aggressiveness against him. They have to get the ball moving again — with the Spurs jumping the passing lanes, we may see more cuts (particularly along the baseline).

For San Antonio this is an easy game to write off. They are a veteran team, they’ve been blown out before. They know what they need to do in the next game.

But the Thunder we expected to see from the start are back in this series. They have awoken and played like a contender. There will be nothing easy for either side from here on out.

We’ve got a real series now.

Can Stephen Curry shoot the ball into the sun roof of a car? Did you even need to ask?

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Stephen Curry has been getting up buckets the past week, working on his game. Sort of. It’s been a bit unconventional.

First, he finished off an alley-oop pass from Tony Romo on the American Century golf course in Lake Tahoe.

Then on Thursday he was filming an Infinity car commercial and had to shoot one into the sun roof from what looks to be 15-20 feet away. He drains it.

Of course he made that, he’s basically the Meadowlark Lemon of a new generation, but without the hook shot.

Celtics sign 2016 first-round pick Guerschon Yabusele

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When you think of the best-run organizations in the NBA — think Spurs or Warriors right now — they not only have elite players helping them win now, but also have a couple of roster spots for younger players they are trying to develop.

The Boston Celtics are trying to be that kind of franchise, and the signing Thursday of Guerschon Yabusele fits that trend.

Boston took Yabusele with the No. 16 pick in the 2016 draft, which means he is on the rookie scale and at least the first two years are guaranteed.

Yabusele is an explosive but very raw 6’8” power forward out of France who the Celtics had get a year of seasoning in the Chinese Basketball Association. He’s a project and may not be able to contribute this season to the Celtics, but he’s got the athletic potential to at least be a rotation player in the league. That the Celtics signed him means they must think that potential is real. He didn’t play at Summer League because he is coming off surgery to remove bone spurs from his foot.

Interestingly, with the Celtics’ signings of Shane Larkin and Daniel Theis in the last 24 hours, Boston now has 16 guaranteed contracts on the roster. They can only go into the season with 15 players on the roster (plus two two-way contracts, but we’re not talking about those deals). Someone is going to be cut and be paid not to play this year, or be traded.

One year after attempted murder charge dropped, Eric Grifin signs two-way deal with Jazz

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — One year after having an attempted-murder charge against him dropped, Eric Griffin signed a two-way contract with the Utah Jazz.

Griffin was a member of the Jazz during NBA summer leagues in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. He averaged 10.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in Vegas.

The 6-foot-8, 205-pound center/forward played for Hapoel Galil Gilboa in the Israeli Basketball Premier League last season, averaging 14.9 points and 7.1 rebounds.

This is the first time the Jazz have used the two-way contracts implemented by the NBA for the upcoming season.

Teams can sign two players to these deals in addition to the 15-man roster. The contracts allow NBA teams to better compensate Gatorade League players expected to spend time with the big league team. Griffin can spend up to 45 days in the NBA.

Warriors fans will need to buy “memberships” to then pay for season seats in new arena

Image courtesy Golden State Warriors
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Going to NBA games — particularly playoffs and NBA Finals games — at Oracle Arena in Oakland is a joy because it is loud and filled with exuberance and love of the sport. It feels more like a college atmosphere (with beer) than it does the more staid feel of many modern NBA arenas. I hope the Warriors don’t lose that when they move into their new arena in San Francisco in the fall of 2019.

What I do know: It’s going to cost some serious bank just to have the right to buy season seats in the new building.

The Warriors are making teams buy “memberships” for the right to buy season tickets — just don’t call them “personal seat licenses.” The San Francisco Chronicle has the details.

The team is calling it a “membership” program, and it will require season-ticket buyers to pay a one-time fee that will enable them to buy their seats for 30 years. In a unique twist yet to be used in any pro sport, the Warriors promise to pay back that fee after 30 years.

Golden State’s ticket plan represents the latest evolution of a business trend that has deep roots here in the Bay Area, where Al Davis and the Raiders were pioneers in selling “personal seat licenses,” and where both the Giants and the 49ers used similar strategies to help finance their new stadiums. The twist the Warriors are stressing is that, unlike PSLs, which required a one-time cost allowing a customer to buy season tickets every year, this plan involves a refund at the end.

How exactly does this work?

If you want to own Warriors season tickets, you would pay a one-time fee for the right to purchase your seats every year for the next 30 years. You can do that in one lump sum, or finance the payments. That’s a big commitment, but the team says memberships will be transferable and can be sold, but only through a marketplace run by the team.

How much are they? The Warriors say about half the memberships will be less than $15,000, the other half scale up from there.

In the Bay Area, there was zero chance the Warriors would be able to get public funding to help them build this new $1 billion arena (as it should be everywhere, but that’s another rant for another time). This is the Warriors’ way to essentially get an interest-free loan to help pay for part of that arena. This is not a plan that will work in every market, but with the money available in San Francisco they can pull it off.

This arena is going to generate a lot of new revenue for the team outside of just this membership fee, and those fattened revenue streams are something Warriors ownership is counting on to help them keep the best — and soon to be the most expensive — team in the NBA together.