Monday NBA grades: Celebrating the beautiful game of the Spurs

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while drinking at the 20 best college bars in America (allegedly)….

source:  San Antonio Spurs. Take a step back and marvel at this team. No, not the 18 wins in a row after they beat the Pacers Monday, or at least not just that. Rather, marvel at the precision with which this team plays the game — if you are a fan of basketball you need to appreciate the Spurs. Their ability to recognize something simple — that Tim Duncan has sealed Roy Hibbert and with two quick passes they can get him a layup (and they did, Tony Parker passed from the wing to Boris Diaw at the elbow, who hit Duncan) is a thing of beauty. They play to their strengths. They move the ball and move off the ball. When they set a screen they get a piece of the defender then roll or pop. They are selfless and as Gregg Popovich has instructed they give up a good shot for a great one. In a couple years they are going to break this team up and we will all be the worse for it.

source:   Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs. This shoutout isn’t for a vintage Duncan performance (9 points on 10 shots is not impressive, although his defense on Roy Hibbert). However, with a dunk in the game he passed Patrick Ewing for 19th on the NBA’s all-time point scoring list.

source:   LeBron James, Miami Heat. Miami moved into first place in the East with a win over the Raptors in the kind of game we have see too much of from the Heat this season: No Dwyane Wade. No Ray Allen. No Greg Oden. No Michael Beasley. No Shane Battier. So LeBron took over and scored 32 points, pulled down7 rebounds and had 8 assists. With that the Heat beat the Raptors 93-83 and moved percentage points ahead of the reeling Pacers.

source:   DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings. No doubt Anthony Davis is one of the up and coming stars of the NBA, a 21-year-old with a great future ahead of him. DeMarcus Cousins completely outplayed him. In a “you guys should have picked me for the All-Star Game not him” kind of way. Cousins had 35 points on 13-of-18 shooting, 14 rebounds, three assists, two blocks. He seemed to be everywhere, he was physical and he took control of the game at points. Impressive performance.

source:   Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks. This is what the Knicks need out of ‘Melo at this point. You knew the Hawks were going to pick up a win against the Sixers (what, you expected a Philly winning streak?) and the Knicks couldn’t afford to lose ground. Doesn’t matter if it’s the second night of a back-to-back, the fifth game in 7 days, New York had to win. They did, thanks to two things: 1) Utah is a terrible basketball team; 2) Carmelo Anthony. Utah had nobody who could begin to contain him and so ‘Melo torched his defenders for 34 points, eight rebounds and three assists. The next highest scoring Knick was Tyson Chandler with 15. Great job by Anthony putting the team on his shoulders.

 

Victor Oladipo’s practice dunk better than anything he – or maybe anyone – did in dunk contest (video)

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Victor Oladipo has grown into far more than just a dunker.

In fact, in Saturday’s dunk contest, he didn’t look like a dunker at all.

The Pacers star missed all three attempts of his first dunk, and a Black Panther mask was by far the biggest draw of his second. Oladipo was eliminated after the first round.

Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t the only eliminated dunker who left something in his bag. This Oladipo dunk – 180 degrees, throwing ball off the backboard with his left hand while in mid-air, dunking with his right hand – while preparing in Los Angeles was awesome.

Larry Nance Jr. had the contest’s best dunk. This would have rivaled it.

Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.

Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.

In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.

 

Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game

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Kevin Durant spent his rookie season in Seattle, before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. He has said Seattle fans deserved to see him grow up in the NBA after supporting his promising start.

They’ll get their chance.

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings and Golden State Warriors have scheduled a preseason game next season in Seattle, according to multiple league sources.

The Oct. 6 meeting between Northern California teams will be the first NBA game in the Key Arena since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season and became the Thunder.

This game will be loaded with storylines. Not only Durant, but the Kings considered moving to Seattle a few years ago. And of course, the return of NBA basketball to Seattle.

At some point, Seattle will get its own team again. For now, this preseason game creates intrigue there.

Report: Kawhi Leonard cleared medically, seeking second opinion

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again this season, a stark reversal from just a month ago. Back then, even while announcing Leonard was out indefinitely with a quad injury, the San Antonio coach said Leonard wouldn’t miss the rest of the season.

What’s going on?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.

Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said.

The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.

At first glance, this sounds like Derrick Rose five years ago. Even after he was cleared to play following a torn ACL, the then-Bulls star remained mysterious about when he’d suit up. His confidence in his physical abilities seemed to be a major issue, and he was never the same player since (suffering more leg injuries).

But the Spurs famously favor resting players to preserve long-term health. They seem unlikely to rush back Leonard. They might even sit players who want to play more often. And Leonard isn’t Rose.

Still, it’s clear something is amiss in San Antonio. Maybe not amiss enough to end Leonard’s tenure there, but the longer this lingers, the more time for tension to percolate.