Kurt Helin

San Antonio Spurs' LaMarcus Aldridge (12) talks to teammate Tony Parker, of France, during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Friday, Oct. 23, 2015, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 111-86. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
Associated Press

Tony Parker, LaMarcus Aldridge out for Spurs Wednesday

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The San Antonio Spurs may be 30-6 with a better point differential than the Golden State Warriors, none of that is changing how they approach the season. Guys will get rested.

For Wednesday night, that will mean Tony Parker and LaMarcus Aldridge will be sidelined against Utah.

Patty Mills and David West will get the starts.

In their last 15 games, the Spurs have outscored opponents by 21.1 points per 100 possessions — that’s 11.2 better than the Warriors over that same stretch. The Spurs are stride-for-stride with Golden State this season.

Just don’t expect that to change how Gregg Popovich is going to approach things.

Antetokounmpo admits he’s still getting comfortable with jump shot

New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) guards Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 6, 2015, at Madison Square Garden  in New York. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)
Associated Press

Giannis Antetokounmpo prefers to put the ball on the floor and drive. This season he has driven to the basket 200 times and he is shooting 51.4 percent when he does, generating points on those drives (via basket, foul or assist) 71 percent of the time.

Antetokounmpo has taken 170 jump shots this season and is shooting 28.2 percent on those.

As the Bucks struggle through a season of regression (not something uncommon for a young team like this), Antetokounmpo admitted to Ian Thomsen of NBA.com that he’s not entirely comfortable with his jumper yet.

“I don’t think I can say it is my safer option,” Antetokounmpo said of his driving. “I think it is my strength. Coach wants us to play to our strength, so that’s what I try to do. I know sometimes I might be open but I don’t feel it — I don’t feel like I’m going to make this jump shot, so I don’t take it. Because if I don’t feel like I’m going to make it, (that’s when) I don’t make it. So I just try to play through my strengths.”

One of the reasons for the Bucks’ regression is the lack of spacing on offense — and that ties to the shooting of Antetokounmpo and point guard Michael Carter-Williams. Those two want to drive, center Greg Monroe wants to operate close to the basket, and suddenly defenses can pack it in on the Bucks and nobody is making them pay from the outside. (The bigger reason for the Bucks’ regression is on defense, their offense as a team is slightly better but their defense dropped to one of the league’s worst. But that’s another discussion.)
It’s part of the growing pains for a young team. It takes time. But if Antetokounmpo wants to be the franchise cornerstone player he can be, he needs a confident jumper that falls with regularity.

Warriors continue to dodge 73-win season question


LOS ANGELES — “It’s honestly surreal,” was the first thing Klay Thompson said about the Warriors’  33-2 record so far this season.

“It’s crazy, that record is pretty insane,” coach Luke Walton said of his team’s record fast start to the season.

That’s it. That’s as close as the Warriors will get to discussing chasing the Chicago Bulls record of a 72-win season.  As quickly as they spit out a sentence about thinking their record is good, to a man the Warriors revert to “just trying to get better every day” cliché comments.

Look at what Walton said right after he called their record insane.

“We don’t focus on that, we don’t think about that,” he continued. “We focus on what we do well, what we need to improve on. We’re watching the Spurs, Cleveland, Houston, Oklahoma City, the teams that are at the top of the league and focusing on what we have to do to beat them. We have to keep our focus on playing at a level that will allow us to win another championship.”

Right now, the Warriors are on pace for 77 wins. However, so many things can throw off that fragile balance — like the injury to Stephen Curry‘s leg, which was aggravated in the win over the Lakers Tuesday. He is now questionable for the Warriors game Friday.

Golden State would love to break Chicago’s record. The Warriors have one ring and were hailed by many (including myself) as ushering in a new era of the NBA, altering the style of play we will see by most teams going forward. However, that kind of legacy cannot be built on just one season, just one ring. They know they need multiple rings and a string of great seasons — getting 72 wins or more would become part of that legacy.

Just don’t expect them to talk about it.

“We’re in a good spot, obviously, but for us it’s not just talk — our mindset is we haven’t played our best yet,” Curry said. ”We’ve had some 36-minute performances where we just played out of our minds but we have struggles and stagnant periods. We just want to keep growing while we’re winning, and that’s what we’re doing.”

The Warriors are aware of the record, but they are not yet going all out to get it. As the season goes on, they plan to rest players as they get tired and take other maintenance steps to have guys healthy and rested for the postseason, even if it costs them wins.

The Warriors know their record is a bit fragile — they have the point differential of a team 29-6, according to basketball-reference.com. The Warriors are playing over their head a little, and often that kind of luck evens out over the course of a season.

But if we get to mid-March, with just about a month left in the season, and that record is still within reach, how hard will they go for it? That question remains to be answered, but it could lead to an interesting chase down the stretch of the season.

UPDATE: Emmanuel Mudiay near return, but that will not be Wednesday

Emmanuel Mudiay
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UPDATE 7:19 pm: The Timberwolves have changed their mind during pregame warmups, and Emmanuel Mudiay will not play Wednesday night, he still had some soreness after shootaround , the team announced. Expect him to return to the court in the next few games, however.

5:10 pm: Emmanuel Mudiay has a lot of work to do to become a reliable starting point guard in the NBA. That starts with improving his shot — he’s hit just 26.2 percent of his jumpers this season, according to basketball-reference.com. Still, he has flashes of brilliance and a court vision that can’t be taught.

Now he can get back to working on his weaknesses — after missing a dozen games with a high ankle sprain, Mudiay is expected to come off the bench for Denver Nuggets Wednesday, the team announced.

The Nuggets have been snake bit by injuries this season. They have been without Danilo Gallinari, Jameer Nelson, Jusuf Nurkic, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Gary Haris at points.

They need to spend this season developing Mudiay, although he will come off the bench behind Nelson at first. Mudiay was averaging 10.7 points, 5.7 assists and 4 turnovers a game when injured.

Timberwolves hold 90-minute meeting to clear air, regroup

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 09:  Karl-Anthony Towns #32 and Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Minnesota Timberwolves react after Ricky Rubio #9 draws a charge from Kent Bazemore #24 of the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on November 9, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  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 Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves skipped practice and held a 90-minute team meeting Tuesday one day after becoming just the fourth team this season to lose to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Gathered at center court, each player had a chance to talk about his role on the team, what he needed from his teammates and what he believes needs to happen to pull the Wolves out of an ugly rut.

Minnesota has lost seven of its last eight games to fall to 12-23 this season.

Interim coach Sam Mitchell says he thinks it was important to give his players a chance to communicate directly and get on the same page.

The Wolves host Denver on Wednesday night.