Associated Press

What’s left of Spurs beats what’s left of Warriors; real question is how does league avoid games like this in future?


This is what the Spurs do — men go down with injuries, next man steps up. Kawhi Leonard (concussion), LaMarcus Aldridge (heart condition), Tony Parker (back) were all out, so Patty Mills stepped up with 21 points and an impressive performance (he should get some Sixth Man of the Year votes, but that’s another topic).

That was better than the second team of the Warriors, who rested Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala, all that on top of Kevin Durant still being out injured. The team that was out there was a defensive disaster, especially rotating out and contesting at the arc.

The Spurs won 107-85 in a game that wasn’t interesting to start and became a blowout. TNT’s David Aldridge summed up how we all feel.

This is not a good look for the NBA — a marquee Saturday night, showcase game between two of the best teams in the NBA and the stars are all sitting. This instance was not on Gregg Popovich — his guys were injured — but in the past he has had no qualms about resting superstars on nationally televised games.

Blame for this — if you think blame needs to dished out — has to start with the NBA and its scheduling. In the quest to get the ratings-driver Warriors on more national games, the Warriors finished a gauntlet of eight games in eight cities in 13 days Saturday night. That included two cross-country flights. If the NBA wants playoff-quality games scheduled in prime time on Saturday night, then they need to think through the run-up to said games. Treat it like a playoff game, where the teams have at least a day and maybe three off in advance of it.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said that the Warriors medical teams — which tracks players with wearables in practice monitoring their condition — told them guys needed rest. He was following their instructions, and it’s clear rest has been an issue. The Warriors are slumping, struggling without Durant, Curry and Thompson have been cold from three, but part of that is their legs look heavy. This team looked tired. Kerr did what he thought was best for his team.

The NBA loves analytics, and the numbers show rested players both play at a higher level and are less likely to be injured. Coaches that can afford to do so are going to rest guys to keep them fresh. This isn’t on the player (usually), these are directives that comes from the coach or higher up the food chain.

But at what point does this start to turn the fanbase off? At what point dues it hurt ticket sales in arena or ratings on television because fans never know who might be rested on a given day. In a star-driven league like the NBA, sitting a healthy Curry — or LeBron James or James Harden or whomever — disappoint a fan base. And it almost always is done on the road, not at home to the home fans (and sponsors).

The answers here are not simple. The NBA, the players union, representatives from the teams all need to sit in a room and discuss this.

Is the answer to fine coaches who do this for nationally televised games? David Stern did this before? Television money is driving the league economy right now, and you can be sure ABC didn’t love getting to run the Davis Bertans vs. Ian Clark show Saturday night in primetime. The problem here is Kerr would have just rested his players the night before in Detroit, hurting those fans but not the television audience. Also, this system is unfair to the Warriors, Cavaliers, and other teams on the biggest national stages with their games — those teams are nationally televised all the times, where the Bucks or Grizzlies or a host of other teams would barely be touched by this.

But it’s not good for the league that we are talking about who didn’t play, and not the game. And this has been the topic for days, all around the league and on sports talk radio. It’s something the league needs to address this summer.

And while I’d love to see a more holistic answer, maybe fines are the best call.

Grizzlies snap 19-game skid with 101-94 win vs Nuggets

Associated Press
Leave a comment

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Dillon Brooks scored 24 points, Tyreke Evans added 20 and the Memphis Grizzlies snapped a 19-game losing streak with a 101-94 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night.

Wayne Selden scored 16 points for Memphis by hitting 6 of 7 shots, including 4 of 5 from outside the arc. Marc Gasol added 14 points as Memphis won for the first time since Jan. 29.

Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Jamal Murray finished with 16 points on 5-of-18 shooting. Denver shot just 37 percent overall and 27 percent from 3-point range.

Denver entered the night in ninth place in the Western Conference, a game out of the playoff race. Denver played without leading scorer Gary Harris, who is expected to miss the next few games with a right knee sprain suffered against Detroit on Thursday.

The Nuggets struggled through a miserable first half of shooting, connecting on 22 percent in the first quarter. Memphis stretched its lead to 21 early in the second quarter before Denver cut it to 53-48 at halftime.

Brooks hit four 3-pointers to start the second half and keep Memphis ahead.

For more NBA coverage:

LaMarcus Aldridge’s 39 points lead Spurs past Wolves, 117-101

Leave a comment

SAN ANTONIO (AP) – LaMarcus Aldridge had 39 points and 10 rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a sluggish start to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 117-101 on Saturday night.

San Antonio won its third straight to move into fifth in the Western Conference five days after dropping to 10th and out of playoff position.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 23 points and nine rebounds for Minnesota, which dropped to sixth in the West.

The Spurs had lost three straight and nine of 11 but are now unbeaten halfway through a six-game homestand.

San Antonio shot 84 percent in the second quarter, their best shooting quarter since 2010.

Two nights after battling New Orleans’ Anthony Davis on both ends, Aldridge had to take on another All-Star in Towns. Aldridge responded by leading the Spurs in scoring for the 49th time this season while helping keep Towns in check.

Aldridge scored 18 of 21 points during a five-minute stretch in the second quarter, including 12 straight. He capped the run by coming from the weak side to swat Towns’ floater deep into the seats.

Minnesota started quickly, shooting 78 percent from the floor in the first 5 1/2 minutes while San Antonio floundered at 17 percent. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called timeout, only to watch the Timberwolves’ Jeff Teague steal the ball once play resumed.

The Spurs responded behind veteran reserves Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Pau Gasol and Rudy Gay. San Antonio went on a 16-4 run bridging the first and second quarters to take a 29-26 lead.

Andrew Wiggins scored 21 points for Minnesota and Teague had 16.


Stan Van Gundy goes off on officials: “We got absolutely screwed all night”

Getty Images

The Pistons were likely to lose to the red-hot Trail Blazers on the road, and that came to be Saturday night 100-87, Portland 12th straight win. The Pistons shot 38.8 percent for the game and had a dreadful offensive rating of 93.8 (points per 100 possessions).

Portland is one the top five defensive teams in the NBA this season, but that’s not what Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy thought was the problem — he laid the blame on the officiating.

That’s going to be a fine.

Van Gundy is frustrated — with this game and with this season. So are Pistons fans, and seemingly so is Detroit owner Tom Gores after his lukewarm vote of confidence in Van Gundy recently. They should be, this team is a disappointment and the Blake Griffin trade was a big swing that has yet to work out. The Pistons are going to miss the playoffs. Around the league, the sense is that Van Gundy will lose his GM job to former super agent Arn Tellem, who was brought in to guide the Pistons into their new building but now whose talents would better serve the basketball side of the operation. The only question is will Van Gundy still be coaching in Detroit next season — just coaching, like Doc Rivers with the Clippers — or of the change will be more sweeping than that.

Hornets’ coach gives savage, frank assessment of Willy Hernangomez

Getty Images

When Willy Hernangomez was not getting much run with the Knicks this season, especially as injuries opened up space in the front line rotation, there were questions as to why. Then the #freeWillyHernangomez movement popped up.

Eventually, Hernangomez was traded to the Hornets where… he barely plays. He’s gotten more than 10 minutes just once since coming to Charlotte.

What gives? Hornet’s coach Steve Clifford didn’t hold back when answering that question to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

“If you were in one place and didn’t play much, if you want to play more in the next place, I’d say work harder and kill myself,” Clifford said at the Hornets shootaround at the Players Association’s midtown headquarters. “The reality is he wasn’t playing here for a reason. He’s got to change things…

“He’s not up to speed on what we’re doing to play a lot,” Clifford said. “It’s been a little bit of a struggle for him. He’s smart, but he’s not this high-flier, phenomenal, natural athlete able to make up ground. He’s got to be on top of things, especially on the defensive end. If he’s not detailed defensively, he’s not that [athletic] guy…

“To be an every-night player, and I’ve told him this, he’s got to improve his shooting,” Clifford said. “He is right now, in my opinion, a back-to-the-basket player who can pass. But the reality is his passing doesn’t come into play until they have to get close to him and know he’s not going to knock down a shot. And he’s not a knockdown shooter.”

Well then.

Just to be clear he’s got to put in a lot more effort, become smarter on the defensive end, and improve his shooting. That’s a healthy off-season checklist.

Hernangomez has another year on his contract at a very reasonable $1.5 million before the Hornets have to make any kind of decision on him, which means whoever is the new GM in Charlotte he will choose to keep Hernangomez around. For now. He flashed potential his rookie season with the Knicks, when asked to play strictly to his strengths, but Clifford and the Hornets — and basically every other team in the NBA — is going to ask more of him.

Clifford was clear, as no doubt he has been clear to Hernangomez (Clifford is as straight a shooter as the league has). The ball is in Hernangomez’s court.