Corey Maggette

Corey Maggette, Sam Young try to earn last Spurs roster spot

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The San Antonio Spurs have 14 guaranteed contracts on their roster and they may go into the season with just that many.

But they can add a 15th guy. They have identified a need — a physical three who can play limited minutes off the bench in certain matchups as a backup to Kawhi Leonard — now they just have to find the guy.

Corey Maggette and Sam Young are in a training camp battle for that last roster spot. The San Antonio Express-News got Gregg Popovich to talk about it.

“They’re both big, strong people for the position,” Popovich said. “We want to see if that fits for us, to have another person there behind Kawhi. Marco (Belinelli) and Manu (Ginobili) can go there, but they’re a little bit slight for some of the teams we’re going to play. I don’t really want to put them in that position very often. If we’ve got another body we think will work well with the team, we might do that. That’s the primary reason we brought those guys in.”

With guaranteed contracts the norm, actual battles in training camp for a roster spot are a rarity in the NBA. (It’s why Hard Knocks for the NBA would never work, it lacks the drama of the NFL cut downs.)

We’ll see how this one plays out. Sam Young played a better role in Indiana last season than Maggette did in Detroit, but neither was very impressive at all. There also is the question of who fits best in the Spurs locker room culture.

Or, the Spurs may just cut them both. At least it is a training camp struggle to watch.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. 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 Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.