Manu Ginobili is concerned about Spurs 1-8 record vs. NBA’s best

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The Spurs are 32-9, battling for the best record in the West and looking like an elite team most nights. At least one scout thinks they are the same old Spurs, winning games while pacing themselves through the regular season and they are the class of the conference again.

But there are questions — they are 1-8 this season against the best teams on their schedule (the Trail Blazers, Rockets, Thunder, Clippers and Pacers). There are reports the Spurs are being more aggressive than normal on the trade market, which can be taken as a sign management thinks they need a little more to get over the top this season.

If you don’t believe me that it’s a concern, look at what Manu Ginobili told the Express-News after the Spurs lost to the Trail Blazers at home last week.

“When it happens the first three times, four times, five times,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said, “then you say, ‘Okay, things happen. The schedule and…’ Now it’s eight (losses), so there has to be a tendency now.”

That one win? Over the Clippers without Chris Paul.

Coach Gregg Popovich was cryptic when asked about it.

“We look everything square in the eye,” said Popovich, when asked about his team’s shortcomings against the NBA’s best.

The Spurs miss the defense of Tiago Splitter and guys like Danny Green that were key in last season’s playoff run have not yet found their form but may very well. Plus, the Spurs treat the regular season as a prelude to the games that matter, they don’t get up for matchups (just the opposite, Popovich often rests key guys in those games).

Still, it makes you wonder if the Spurs really do have another run in them. This is far too early to try and judge how San Antonio will play come April and May, and this is a team with a top 5 offense and defense, but we need to see more of them in big games to get a better picture.

This week the Spurs get Oklahoma City (without Russell Westbrook) and the Miami Heat, two games worth watching just to see how they approach and play in those games.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.

DeMarcus Cousins on Confederate statues: ‘Take all them motherf—ers down’

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DeMarcus Cousins grew up in Alabama, played collegiately at Kentucky and now plays in New Orleans.

So, yeah, the Pelicans star has an opinion on Confederate statues.

Cousins, via TMZ:

“Take all them motherf*ckers down,” Cousins said … “Take ’em all down.”

These statues glorify people because they fought a war against the United States in the name of preserving the racist institution of slavery.

Not whom I want to honor, either.

Kevin Durant: Kyrie Irving-LeBron James situation ‘just a regular NBA problem’

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Kevin Durant knows something about star teammates not always getting along.

So, the Warriors forward is not freaking out about the disconnect between Kyrie Irving and LeBron James and Irving’s subsequent trade request.

Durant, via Chris Haynes of ESPN:

“It’s just a regular NBA problem, right? A lot of teams have gone through this before,” Durant told ESPN. “They’ll figure it out. That’s a great organization, a championship organization. They’ll figure it out.”

“It’s not the end of the world,” Durant said. “Both of those guys won a championship together. They love each other. If Kyrie wants to do something else, that’s on him. I’m sure whatever happens, it’ll work out for the best for both of them. But it’s just a normal NBA problem. It’s just two big stars that it’s happening to.”

Durant is definitely right in the larger sense. Teammates spat and requests trades more often than we realize. Remember, both Irving and the Cavaliers probably prefer this never became public.

But I’m not sure Cleveland will figure this out with the ease Durant suggests. David Griffin, who had proven so adept at putting out these fires, is gone. LeBron’s free agency looms. This could be extremely destructive to the Cavs.

The fact that this “regular NBA problem” became public only intensifies it – and raises it something greater.

Report: Heat signing Jordan Mickey

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Jordan Mickey – the No. 33 pick by the Celtics in 2015 – became the first second-round pick in memory to sign the year he was drafted and receive a higher initial salary than first-round picks.

He’s keeping the checks coming.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Mickey will be the Heat’s 16th player with a standard contract, though Matt Williams (unguaranteed) will likely be waived to meet the regular-season roster limit.

I’m not sure where Mickey fits on this team, which already has several bigs. Hassan Whiteside, Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk will likely play ahead of him. Miami also has A.J. Hammons (who might be just dead salary) and Udonis Haslem (who might provide nothing more than veteran leadership).

The Heat could just see Mickey as someone they can develop. At that point, how he fits into the current roster doesn’t really matter.

Mickey – 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan – is a mobile defender with nice timing for blocking shots inside. He even possesses a work-in-progress 3-pointer in his arsenal. There’s plenty for Miami to help mold.