Popovich says he understands fans concerns when he sits stars

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Gregg Popovich has done this before. More than once. Three times last season he rested his stars Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all at once.

And while David Stern never got involved until last night, fans at those games were not happy (and there was some grumbling from some quarters of the media).

When Popovich did it in Portland last season, a fan wrote him and complained that he had paid good money to see these stars and he was unhappy. Popovich said he responded to the letter, reports Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com.

“I got a letter from a gentleman who was disappointed because he came to the game with his cousin, they paid money and they wanted to see so-and-so and so-and-so. I wrote him back and I said, ‘If I was in your position, I would write the same letter. I agree with you totally. You’re right. But my priorities are different than yours.’ In the general sense, frankly, everything doesn’t go our way in life. Everything go your way every day? Sometimes things happen. That’s the way it goes.”

Popovich has one priority — do what is best for the San Antonio Spurs team. His team was on a the final game of a six-game road trip Sunday, was playing the second game of a back-to-back and their fourth game in five days, going up against a Heat team that had the last four days off. That is what you call a schedule-maker’s loss. The Spurs were 5-0 on the road trip so far and Popovich thought his veteran stars looked a little tired so he gave them the night off.

He did what he felt was right for his Spurs — not for the Heat fans, not for TNT (which was to broadcast the game), not for the greater business of the league, but for the Spurs team. That is his lone goal. David Stern, the fans, the media have other priorities. Stern can inject those priorities into Popovich’s decision making, but it’s not a simple question.

And Popovich gets all that. He just had different priorities.

PBT Extra: Bobby Portis punch adds to challenges for Bulls this season

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Nikola Mirotic will be out 4-6 weeks due to his concussion and fractured jaw.

Bobby Portis has been suspended for the first eight games of the season for causing those injuries to Mirotic with a punch at practice.

What does this mean for a Bulls locker room that was already going to have to deal with the weight of losing a lot of games.  I get into all these questions in this latest PBT Extra.

It’s going to be a long season in Chicago.

Gordon Hayward’s agent says return this season unlikely

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Wednesday night in Boston Gordon Hayward underwent surgery to repair his dislocated ankle and fractured tibia suffered just five minutes into the season-opening game, a gruesome injury that put a pall over the rest of the night.

There had been hope from some Celtics fans that Hayward could return this season, likely for the playoffs, but now that the surgery is complete Hayward’s agent told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN not to expect him back until next season.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who saw the injury. Hayward is in the first year of a four-year deal with the Celtics, they were always going to choose a cautious path rather than rush him back. Under Danny Ainge Boston has always taken the long view, even with all their moves this summer — specifically bringing in Hayward and Kyrie Irving — the target was to be the team set up for next as LeBron James and the Cavaliers faded. That plan does not change now.

Earlier in the day, Hayward had sent a video message out to Celtics fans thanking them for their support in the past 24 hours.

Without Hayward, the Celtics now will focus more on smaller lineups, rookie Jayson Tatum will get more run, as will Marcus Smart in his contract year. Jaylen Brown will be thrust into a more significant role. Also, Kyrie Irving will be asked to do more as the team’s second-best playmaker is now out for the season.

The Celtics will take a step back this season without Hayward, who was going to be crucial for them on both ends of the floor. That’s evidenced by their 0-2 start, falling to the Cavaliers and Bucks on the first couple nights of the season. Boston should still be a team well above .500 and in the playoffs, but they will not be quite the same this season.

Trail Blazers beat Suns by 48, biggest season-opening rout in NBA history

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Any controversy over C.J. McCollum‘s suspension for the season-opener should be put to rest. The Trail Blazers fared fine without him.

More than fine.

Portland beat the Suns, 124-76, Wednesday. The 48-point margin is the largest ever in a season opener, even as the Trail Blazers let a 58-point fourth-quarter lead dwindle.

Here are the most lopsided season-openers in NBA history (openers for both teams appearing twice):

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The 48-point defeat is also the Suns’ worst lost in franchise history, topping a 44-point loss to the Seattle SuperSonics in 1988. It could be a long year in Phoenix.

Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova scrap (video)

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Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova thrive on aggravating opponents, so when matched up, of course they aggravated each other.

Deduct points from Smart for pulling the hold-me-back charade behind a referee. Plus, Dellavedova’s Bucks beat Smart’s Celtics, 108-100.