Kurt Helin

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard runs up the court after scoring during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 106-92. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
Associated Press

Spurs’ quiet star Kawhi Leonard ready for Curry, Warriors

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — On a team that prides itself on humility, efficiency and selflessness, Kawhi Leonard is the most Spur-like of them all.

Tim Duncan‘s stoicism has been spoofed in commercials and memes, but Leonard makes the veteran seem positively animated in comparison. A big dunk or key play? Leonard might give a small fist pump, maybe a slight clap of his hands.

“It’s very rare for him,” guard Tony Parker said, “even less than Timmy.”

The soft-spoken Leonard is a lot like Duncan on the court, too, quietly putting together a season that has him in the early MVP discussion. The Spurs are right there near the top of the Western Conference standings, behind the defending champion Golden State Warriors, and the teams will play each other for the first time this season on Monday night in Oakland. Duncan will be out with soreness in his right knee, the Spurs said Sunday.

“He’s probably the best two-way player in the league now,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “You have to deal with him in all kinds of different ways. He’s a terror on defense. Offensively he’s gotten better and better. It’s kind of slowly but surely become his team in a lot of ways.”

If everyone else is excited about it, that will have to do. You won’t hear much buzz from Leonard. His focus is singular.

“Just wanting to win, really,” Leonard said. “That’s it. That’s all I think about.”

The 6-foot-7 forward is clearly the best player on a team with a trio of future Hall of Famers in Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili, and the offseason’s biggest free-agent acquisition in LaMarcus Aldridge. The Spurs were hopeful, if uncertain of Leonard’s potential when they traded away team favorite George Hill to Indiana in 2011 for the dynamic, raw talent out of San Diego State. Leonard has rewarded San Antonio’s forward thinking by meticulously becoming one of the game’s elite players, staying late and coming early to hone his game.

“He’s a young player and he’s just trying to be the best basketball player he can be,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “That encompasses playing both ends of the floor and everything that entails.”

It’s a drive that led Popovich to proclaim in 2012 that Leonard was “going to be a star” and “the face of the Spurs.” As usual, he was right.

“He looks phenomenal,” Lakers star Kobe Bryant said. “His game has grown leaps and bounds from when he first came in the league. He’s done nothing but continued to add. Three-point shot, pull-up shot, left, right, post game, handling the ball. He looks great.”

From stripping the sure-handed Stephen Curry of his dribble at midcourt last April to holding Indiana All-Star Paul George to a career-worst seven points last month, Leonard continues to prove himself an elite defender. A 7-3 wingspan helps, but there’s more to it.

“He’s tenacious,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “It starts with a level of pride and intensity. Physically, he is so long and strong I think that combination makes him really unique from a physical standpoint. But there are a lot of guys that have physical tools. It’s the fact that he takes pride in them and also within what they do.”

George called his matchup with Leonard “a game with a game” that he enjoys. Added LeBron James: “Kawhi has some of the best hands, he’s a great defender. I love going against him.”

Leonard’s defense is no surprise. He won Defensive Player of the Year last season. But he’s doing more on the offensive end, too – averaging career bests in scoring, rebounds and assists – all while guarding the team’s best perimeter player, regardless of size and position.

“His confidence is up there, obviously,” Duncan said. “He’s playing as well as anyone in this league right now and it shows. He knows what he can do and he’s confident in what he can do. You see it in every game out there. The shots he’s taking, the role he’s taking with the team and the way he’s leading.”

After signing a five-year, $90 million contract in July, Leonard was eager to leave, though not for a celebration or a shopping spree. Leonard was rushing to return to the court for the second of his three daily workouts in the offseason. The NBA Finals MVP trophy from 2014? On a table, collecting dust.

“It’s not my goal this year to be MVP,” he said. “I said I wanted to be a player that was on an MVP level. That’s not a goal of mine. I do want to be recognized as one of the best when I retire.”

AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in Oakland contributed to this report.

Tim Duncan out for Spurs’ Monday showdown with Warriors

San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan hugs the ball prior to the Spurs' NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Associated Press

Well, this sucks.

Despite the hype, we know that Monday’s showdown between the Spurs and Warriors is only going to be a window into the playoff series we hope to get this May. But we’re going to be able to see a little less through that window now.

Is Duncan actually sore or is this Popovich gamesmanship? Who knows. It doesn’t matter, the result is the same.

Duncan’s scoring numbers may be down — 8.9 points, 7.5 rebounds a game — but he remains a vital part of what the Spurs do, particularly on defense. The Spurs are 3.7 points per 100 possessions better when Duncan is on the court. Using ESPN’s real plus/minus (an adjusted +/- taking into account other players on the floor, and other variables) Duncan has the best defensive numbers in the NBA. He still plays efficiently.

Expect the Spurs to play David West, Boris Diaw, and Boban Marjanovic more with Duncan out.

Shaq joins Florida cop for pickup game after video goes viral


It all started when a whiny Florida neighbor called in a noise complaint because the neighbor’s kids were playing basketball in the street. The horror. The cop showed up, assessed the situation, and joined in the pickup game. The Gainesville police posted the video on their Facebook page saying “We’re going to let kids be kids. We are going to focus on the ones that commit crimes. #HoopsNotCrime.”

Thank you.

The Cop said he would return with reinforcements for a pickup game. Yesterday he rolled up with Shaquille O’Neal. From our partners at NBC News.

“Told you I was gonna bring some backup, right? You guys ready?” White asks the kids.

“Look at these big guys I brought. You sure you can take them?” he taunts, pointing to a group of officers.

That’s when O’Neal emerges from an SUV to give the kids a true Shaq attack.

“These kids will never forget the day Shaq rolled up to their house to play ball,” the police department wrote on its Facebook page along with video of the game.

That is awesome. And good on Shaq.


Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried says groin injury feels significant to him

Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried dunks against San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
Associated Press
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Kenneth Faried sat out the Nuggets’ win over the Pistons Saturday night with a strained groin, and he is officially listed as day-to-day.

But those days could add up if you ask Faried.

The high-energy forward was asked by Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post if the injury feels significant.

“Yeah, it does,” Faried said. “When something doesn’t enable me to run and jump and do what I do, then it’s a significant injury. So I’m kind of nervous. But everybody says it’s going to be okay, that it will just keep getting better, and to keep stretching it.”

This sounds like Faried being understandably concerned but the doctors understanding this injury. Faried is the starting four for the Nuggets and averages 12.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, and a block a game. He’s also been coming up in trade rumors recently, although it’s not likely he is moved at the February deadline.

Faried described the progression of the injury this way.

“I came in (on Friday) and got shots up and felt fine,” Faried said. “I lifted. Everything felt fine. but (Saturday) morning I woke up and I was hurting. I thought it was nothing, I thought it was from the workout of course. Then I tried to go through shootaround, and run and it just wasn’t happening.”

Groins, like hamstrings, can be tricky for players because they feel better, and players by their nature want to push through the injury, but that leads to setbacks. Expect the Nuggets to be cautious and take their time getting Faried back on the court.




Sunday’s Thunder at Nets game delayed four hours due to snow

A man operates a snow blower near the Brooklyn Bridge in the borough of Brooklyn in New York on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016. A blizzard with hurricane-force winds brought much of the East Coast to a standstill Saturday. (AP Photo/Peter Morgan)
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Previously the 76ers at Celtics game Saturday was pushed back until today (Sunday), and the Jazz at Wizards game Saturday has been postponed to a yet-to-be-determined future date, all due to the storm that dumped more than 30 inches of snow up and down the Eastern seaboard.

It’s so much snow that transportation in New York City is still is difficult as the city continues to dig out from all that snow

Which is why the NBA has decided that the Oklahoma City Thunder at Brooklyn Nets game at Barclays Center scheduled for 3:30 pm ET today would be delayed to 7:30 pm ET. 

This shouldn’t be an issue for the teams or players such as Kevin Durant or Brook Lopez; they have a routine that sets them up for evening games. Frankly, the early start games are often sloppy because players are thrown out of their routines.

Plus now the players can watch almost all of the Patriots at Broncos game. Which is what half of them would rather be doing anyway.