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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: one-and-done a “travesty” for college hoops

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NEW YORK (AP) — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar likes experienced players, part of the reason he picked San Antonio to knock off Golden State.

And it’s one reason he thinks John Wooden wouldn’t have the same enjoyment or success if he were coaching today. His coach at UCLA would have disliked how the one-and-done era has changed the college basketball game that the Bruins ruled under Wooden.

“He wouldn’t have been able to do it now,” Abdul-Jabbar said Monday in an interview at The Associated Press headquarters. “It’s a totally different circumstance now. Kids aren’t going to college to get an education and play ball. It’s one or the other.”

The NBA’s draft lottery is Tuesday and the team that gets the No. 1 pick will likely use it on a freshman, such as point guards Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball. They might become All-Stars but they won’t arrive in the NBA with anywhere near the resume of Abdul-Jabbar, who won three championships in three seasons from 1967-69 – freshman were ineligible at the time – and was the Final Four Most Outstanding Player each time.

“They’re there less than six months. It’s not even six months and they’re gone,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “It’s a travesty, I think. They’re just using the college system as a stepping stone to the NBA and that’s really unfortunate. I think an education is vital to having a good life and these guys aren’t getting that opportunity. It’s sad.”

Dressed in a dark blazer, blue tie and khaki slacks, the goateed Abdul-Jabbar spoke in a studio about his relationship with Wooden in his new book “Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court.” The book details Wooden’s influence on his life as a player in college and years later as they became closer when Abdul-Jabbar returned to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers.

Wooden won 10 national championships, most by a men’s coach, but Abdul-Jabbar hopes readers will see that many of Wooden’s best lessons weren’t about sports.

“I hope that they get an understanding of the man, what he was all about and what he gave us in terms of an understanding of how to be good citizens, good husbands, good fathers,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “That was really what he was all about. He used basketball just as a metaphor to teach us about life and he did a great job.”

Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s career scoring leader, is now 70 and does some work for ESPN. He picked the Spurs to beat the top-seeded Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

“I went with the Spurs because they have a more veteran team and the way that they play the game will work because they can play an inside game and an outside game,” he said. “Golden State is more of an outside shooting team and they’re very good at it. So that’s why they play the games. We get to go see them and find out if our speculation was accurate or way off base.”

It appeared it was going to be right on, at least for Game 1, when the Spurs built a 25-point lead. But they lost Kawhi Leonard to an ankle injury in the third quarter and Golden State rallied for a 113-111 victory.

“I think San Antonio can challenge them but they’re going to need Leonard if they’re going to take it all the way,” Abdul-Jabbar said.

Marcus Smart wants to be back for Game 6 vs. Bucks

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Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been out for some time after injuring his thumb earlier in the year. The absence of one of Boston’s most important guards has been felt even more so after Kyrie Irving went down following knee surgery.

In short, the Celtics would like to have Smart back on the floor.

We’re now close enough that Smart has begun to give solid timeframes to reporters. Speaking to media on Sunday, Smart said that his plan is to be back for Game 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Boston took on Milwaukee on Sunday in Game 4.

Via ESPN:

Right now, [a Game 6 return is] the plan and we’re still on the same track,” Smart said before Game 4 on Sunday. “I’ve been doing everything but contact, so I will be able to go and start that.”

Smart said he believes the thumb is ready for contact.

“The surgery did its job,” said Smart, who injured himself March 11 while diving for a loose ball in a game against the Indiana Pacers. “Thumb is holding up well. I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there. I’m just waiting on the OK.”

The series between the Celtics and Bucks has been tumultuous, a back-and-forth affair as an injury-riddled Boston squad takes on a healthy but offensively-sluggish Milwaukee team. Smart could add a shot of life for Boston in a much-needed way.

The Bucks won Game 4 and the series is now tied, 2-2. Game 6 would be on Thursday, April 26 if need be.

Manu Ginobili leads Spurs over Warriors

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Although the San Antonio Spurs were outmatched against the Golden State Warriors, Manu Ginobili was an integral part of the Spurs staving off elimination against the reigning champs on Sunday. San Antonio beat the Warriors, 103-90, to put the series at 3-1.

The 40-year-old wingman scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter in San Antonio as Ettore Messina logged a playoff win at the helm of the team. Gregg Popovich, who sadly lost his wife this past week, did not coach.

Ginobili was 5-of-10 off the bench, adding five assists and three rebounds in the win. LaMarcus Aldridge led all Spurs scorers with 22, notching a double-double with 10 rebounds.

Meanwhile, the only Warriors player to score more than 12 points was Kevin Durant, who rose above all scorers with 34 points to go with 13 rebounds. Klay Thompson shot an embarrassing 25 percent from the field, scoring just 12 points.

Ginobili put the dagger on the Warriors with 90 seconds to go, hitting a spinning flip shot over Draymond Green to give San Antonio a 10-point lead.

The series heads back to Oakland for Game 5 with the Spurs trailing, 3-1.

Kevin Durant on Giannis Antetokounmpo: ‘I would tell him to play for himself’

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Kevin Durant was once the big star in a little city. The former Oklahoma City Thunder star now plays for the Golden State Warriors, and has a championship ring to his name after making a switch in 2016.

So Durant has at least some experience similar to that of Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak is currently leading the charge for the Bucks against the Boston Celtics in the first round, and he’s seen as the future in Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo signed a 4-year, $100 million contract in the summer of 2016, so presumably he’ll be in Wisconsin for some time.

Meanwhile, Durant had some advice for Antetokounmpo, should he ask for it. In a feature on ESPN, Durant was quoted as saying he felt Antetokounmpo should be sure to have fun, and to play for himself.

Via ESPN:

What I would say to him, I would tell him to play for himself,” Durant said. “Because he’s the one out there putting in the work, he’s the one out there getting up in the morning staying committed to the game. Obviously [the comments about staying put] sounds good to the fans in Milwaukee and to the ownership, because he cares so much about wanting to please them and play well for them, and I get it. But his career is about him; it’s about whatever he wants to do and however he feels is right for him. And what type of basketball does he want to play? He’s not going to stay in Milwaukee if he’s not having fun playing the game.

That’s some pretty good advice, although factors surrounding Antetokounmpo will likely weigh the same as they did on Durant in OKC. The Bucks presumably need a new coach once their season ends. They’re currently helmed by interim coach Joe Prunty, who took over when Jason Kidd was fired earlier this year.

The Bucks also need to fill out their roster and find a way to stay healthy. The Thunder famously had roster issues (read: the James Harden trade) and eventually the lack of playoff success drove Durant to switch teams.

Milwaukee doesn’t seem close to that kind of juncture, although eventually things will flip for the young Bucks and fans and management will expect some kind of production in the postseason.

Giannis Antetokounmpo beats Celtics with late-game tip-in; series tied 2-2

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It was an exciting finish in Milwaukee on Sunday, where the Bucks took home a win on their home court to level the series against the Boston Celtics, 2-2.

The game came down to the wire, with 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon giving the Bucks the lead after a corner 3-pointer with just 33.5 seconds left. The Celtics responded with a sideline out of bounds play that resulted in Al Horford tying the game with free throws.

On their final possession, the Bucks again went to Brogdon, who missed on a layup driving to the left side of the floor. Luckily, Giannis Antetokounmpo was there to follow with the tip-in with just five seconds left.

Via ESPN:

Boston was unable to convert on a final play, and Milwaukee grabbed the win, 104-102.

Game 5 will be in Boston on Tuesday.