Oklahoma City Thunder v San Antonio Spurs - Game Two

Tim Duncan could extend championship reign to historic length

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Long after a championship team has finished its run, it’s always entertaining to look back on the cast of characters and research the question: Where are they now? One team particularly interests me.

The starting point guard became a head coach and has done it long enough to get fired. Twice.

The starting shooting guard has served as an assistant coach so long, he took a sabbatical this season.

The staring small forward has worked as a color commentator longer than his NBA career lasted.

The starting center waited the required amount of time and then was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Heck, he’s been enshrined as long as he had to wait.

And the starting power forward, well, he’s playing for the NBA title once again.

Fifteen years after Tim Duncan won his first NBA title – starting with Avery Johnson, Mario Elie, Sean Elliott and David Robinson – the Spurs superstar is four wins from another. No other player on that 1999 San Antonio championship team has even been in the league the last few years.

Yet, not only is Duncan still playing, he’s excelling.

A lot of external circumstances have changed – Dominique Wilkins was still in the NBA and Bill Clinton was still president when Duncan won his first title – but Duncan has remained one of the steadiest elite performers in NBA history.

I don’t know who the Spurs’ best player is now. I’m tempted to say Kawhi Leonard.  A lot of people would probably answer Tony Parker. But Duncan is as good a response as any.

In 1999, the same debate raged. Was Duncan or Robinson San Antonio’s best player?

Between, there has been little doubt. Duncan has performed at Hall of Fame levels, ensuring the Spurs remain at or near the top of the league.

Currently Duncan, who won his last title in 2007, has gone eight years between championships. That’s pretty impressive. Just 25 players in NBA history – including two current players, Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher – have done that.

But if the Spurs win the championship this year, that would put Duncan in even more rarified air.

Just nine players have gone more than 10 years between winning championships. Just two have gone more than 15.

Here they are with their first championship team, number of years between and their last championship team – plus where Duncan could fit with a title this year.

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Abdul-Jabbar was still humming along, winning four titles while playing excellently with the Lakers more than 10 years after his first with the Bucks. But Parish was a benchwarmer on the Bulls long after his Celtics peak.

Duncan falls somewhere between, though much closer to Abdul-Jabbar.

And if the Spurs win the championship this year, Duncan should fall closer to the greatest of the all-time greats when discussing his legacy as an individual player and career-long winner.

Warriors add Willie Green as assistant coach

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It’s a good thing to be on the Golden State coaching staff — Alvin Gentry rode it to the head coaching spot in New Orleans, Luke Walton to his “dream job” with the Lakers, and quickly having “Warriors” on your resume is getting recognition like having “Spurs” on it around the NBA.

So good for Willie Green, the former NBA sharpshooter who will now be coaching a few other pretty good shooters in Golden State. Shams Charania of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports broke the story.

Green is a 12-year NBA veteran, who is getting his first NBA coaching job.

NBA veteran coach Mike Brown will be in the chair next to Steve Kerr next season in Golden State. Kerr keeps having to replenish his staff as they are getting better jobs elsewhere after having been around the Warriors’ organization.

Rumor: Greg Monroe would like to be traded to New Orleans

Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe, center, drives to the basket against New Orleans Pelicans center Alexis Ajinca, left, and guard Tyreke Evans, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)
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If you’re going to bet on an NBA player likely to be moved before the start of the NBA season — or at least by the deadline — Bucks’ big man Greg Monroe would be a good choice. It’s no secret he is on the trade block, the Bucks just aren’t finding a team making an offering to their liking.

What would Monroe like?

He probably wants to end up in New Orleans, ESPN’s Marc Stein said on the Lowe Post podcast.

Which makes a ton of sense — he was born in New Orleans, he wants to go home. The two sides have talked about a deal multiple times in the past, but nothing got done.

The problem is the Bucks are only getting rock-bottom offers for Monroe. On the upside, he’s an efficient offensive NBA big who got the Bucks 15.3 points and 8.8 rebounds a game last season. However, he’s a defensive liability who does not protect the rim, plus he’s a $17 million rental next season (he can and likely will opt out in the summer of 2017). Even teams that could use a scoring big are not going to give up much quality in a trade for a rental like Monroe.

The Pelicans already have Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca as traditional fives, and they should play Anthony Davis there more anyway. Roster wise, the Pelicans would need to make some other moves for this deal to make sense.

But eventually, the Bucks will find an offer they are willing to take.

Nets’ Greivis Vasquez pulls out of Olympics for Venezuela

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 11:  Greivis Vasquez #21 of the Milwaukee Bucks takes the court against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on November 11, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Bucks 103-102. 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 Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Venezuela is in its first Olympic basketball tournament in more than 20 years — they upset Canada and Argentina to win the FIBA Americas tournament last summer and earned the right to go to Rio.

But they are going to have to play there without the one NBA player on their roster. Greivis Vasquez, who had ankle surgery last December, announced he had to pull out, via the Nets.

If you want to know what this means for the Venezuelan team heading into Rio, well, they shot just 23.9 percent in an 80-45 loss to Team USA Friday night in Chicago — and that was by far the USA’s worst performance in the exhibition run-up to the Rio Games.

Vasquez should be getting decent minutes off the bench behind Jeremy Lin in Brooklyn this season. They need him healthy as the team tries to move from “god awful” to just plain “not good” next season.

Report: Monty Williams to accept role on Spurs coaching staff next season

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Another smart move by the Spurs.

Monty Williams is one of the better assistant coaches in the NBA right now, and he was available (remember he understandably left Oklahoma City last season after the tragic death of his wife). He’s part of Mike Krzyzewski’s staff with USA Basketball this summer — watch him in practices at age 44 and he’s a better defender plenty of players in the league — and he wanted to get back on the bench.

San Antonio has snapped him up, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Sources told ESPN that Williams — who left the Oklahoma City Thunder’s bench in February after the tragic death of his wife, Ingrid — has been urged by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to take as much of a role with the organization as he feels comfortable for the 2016-17 campaign.

The specifics of what role Williams would fill and how much time he could commit have not yet been determined, but sources say San Antonio has opened the door to either a coaching and player-development role or a front-office position (or a hybrid), depending on what he prefers.

One source close to Williams told ESPN that the 44-year-old “absolutely” intends to be a head coach in the league again after his expected stint with the Spurs. The source also said numerous teams, including Oklahoma City, have made similar offers to Williams for next season.

Williams will get another shot in the big chair down the line. In the short term, this is a smart move — nothing looks better on a resume than “Spurs” around the league right now.