NBA says Tim Duncan’s game-saving block on James Harden was a ‘correct non-call’


The Spurs won their 10th straight game on Friday, hanging on to beat the Rockets in a contest that came down to the final seconds to be decided.

With San Antonio leading by a single point and only a few seconds remaining, James Harden got all the way to the rim with the basketball only to be rudely greeted by Tim Duncan, who blocked his layup attempt to preserve the Spurs’ victory.

At first glance, it appeared to be a foul on Duncan, for the hack he delivered across Harden’s arm. But as part of the official review process, the league determined Duncan’s play to be a clean block, and one that was legal at the same time.

The explanation, via the league’s Last Two Minute Report:

Duncan jumps vertically on Harden’s layup attempt and cleanly blocks the shot. There is contact after the blocked shot, but because the shot is already blocked, the contact is incidental and deemed to have no impact on the shot attempt.

It’s just so very close.

In real time, it sure looked like Duncan committed the foul. But as has been made all too clear by the publishing of these reports, the referees prefer to let the players decide the games in their closing seconds, and Duncan’s block — clean or not — was close enough to where the officials didn’t find it necessary to blow one of their three available whistles.

Magic GM says he intends to re-sign restricted free agent Tobias Harris ‘no mater what’


Tobias Harris is a nice player, averaging 17 points and 6.3 rebounds in 34.8 minutes per game for the Magic this season, while shooting 36.1 percent from three-point distance.

But is he a max player?

Harris will be a restricted free agent this summer, and if Magic GM Rob Hennigan is to be believed, the team is prepared to match any offer Harris receives — no matter how steep the price.

From Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel:

Magic GM Rob Hennigan says the club “intends” to bring back F Tobias Harris – a restricted free agent – “no matter what” the cost this summer. At $15 mill per year? Seeing is believing.

This is fairly earth-shaking news. Hennigan wouldn’t pay Harris what he wanted – near max money – when they talked contract before the season.

Now Hennigan is telling the league he’ll essentially match any offer. He could make Harris the team’s highest-paid player, exceeding Nik Vucevic’s $13-million per year. He must have a hunch that the market for Harris won’t be outrageous.

The funny part is that Hennigan – who guards information like launch codes and rarely speaks to us media scoundrels – talked about Harris on a conference call to season-ticket holders.

It’s possible that Hennigan means what he says, especially when considering the fact that max contracts handed out this summer — before the salary cap spikes nearly $30 million in advance of the 2016-17 season — could end up seeming like bargains in the very near future.

But what’s more likely is that Hennigan is doing what every GM does with regard to their team’s restricted free agents.

The plan is to lead everyone to believe that a team will simply match any offer the player receives, in order to discourage teams from tying up available cap space by signing a player to an offer sheet during the early days of the free agent frenzy.

We saw this play out with both Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe last summer, when neither player could get signed to a max-level offer sheet that would force their current teams to match.

The Magic had the chance to offer Harris piles of money on a contract extension before the season began, but ultimately passed; we’ll see if anything changes this summer.

Spurs intentionally send Josh Smith to free throw line a career-high 26 times


Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich may have provided teams with a blueprint for slowing down MVP candidate James Harden, though it’s one that’s anything but aesthetically pleasing.

San Antonio used the legal but ugly intentional fouling strategy extensively during Friday night’s win over the Rockets, the team’s 10th straight.

And it sent Josh Smith to the free throw line a career-high 26 times.

From the Associated Press:

Popovich was pleased with the way his Hack-A-Smith routine changed the game.

“Absolutely, I’d trade it any day rather than have James Harden with the basketball,” Popovich said. “That’s kind of scary. …

Harden, who entered the game leading the NBA in scoring, was kept well below his 27.6 average, with San Antonio intentionally fouling Smith 12 times in the second half. Smith went 12 of 26 from the line and led the Rockets with 20 points.

Smith is shooting just 51.2 percent from the free throw line on the season, so Popovich was simply playing the odds, just as he’s done for many years. Though he’s admitted to hating the strategy as recently as last season.

“I hate it,” Popovich said. “I think it’s awful. I hate doing it. Seriously. I think it’s a pain in the neck, fans don’t like it, I don’t like it, nobody likes it. It disrupts the flow of the game. If there’s an equitable way to get rid of it, I’m all for it.

“But it’s part of the game. It’s part of the rules now and if you think somebody can’t shoot a free throw you might as well take advantage of it. If you think somebody can’t shoot you don’t guard him the same way. So [the strategy’s] fair, it’s just kind of ugly I think.”

The loss temporarily dropped the Rockets to sixth place in the Western Conference standings, which, as of today, would mean a first round playoff matchup against these same Spurs — and presumably, plenty more free throw attempts for Josh Smith.

J.R. Smith has advice for fellow NBA players who enjoy the late-night club scene


J.R. Smith was never shy about his love of the club scene while playing for the New York Knicks.

He’s admitted that the change of playing in small-market Cleveland is a better situation for him because of the lack of late-night options, and Smith may be among the more qualified in the league to give fellow players advice on how to handle themselves when going out, given his extensive experience.

In discussing the incident where Chris Copeland was stabbed outside a club in New York earlier this week, Smith explained that while Copeland certainly isn’t to blame for what happened, he may have broken one of Smith’s “cardinal rules.”

From Dave McMenamin of

“For me, I feel like a target every time,” Smith said after Cavs shootaround Friday in advance of their game with the Boston Celtics. “So, I try to handle myself with care when I’m out and about. It’s one of those situations when you’re out at 4 in the morning — I’m not saying it’s [Copeland’s] fault by any means — but when you’re out at 4 in the morning, there’s no way you should be walking anywhere. Get in your car and go home or go wherever you’re going. That’s one of my cardinal rules. You don’t just stand outside of the events like that. You just get in and go and keep it moving.”

Copeland unnecessarily apologized for being out so late, but that wasn’t the issue; players on every team in the league frequently do the same.

But how they handle themselves in terms of being aware of their surroundings and the potential for trouble can always be improved upon, so in that regard, everyone should be willing to heed Smith’s advice.

MORE: CSNNE subscriber? Watch Cavaliers-Celtics Sunday at 3:00 p.m. ET

Kendrick Perkins gets away with ridiculous 9-step traveling violation (VIDEO)


Kendrick Perkins got away with a ridiculous nine-step traveling violation during a game against the Heat earlier this week, and while this is indeed somewhat hilarious, it’s worth wondering what exactly the three referees on the floor could have possibly been watching that allowed them to let this go unnoticed.

MORE: CSNNE subscriber? Watch Cavaliers-Celtics Sunday at 3:00 p.m. ET