Kurt Helin

San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge celebrates a basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
Associated Press

Aldridge’s double-double helps Spurs rout Suns 112-79

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — LaMarcus Aldridge had 21 points and 12 rebounds and the Spurs routed the Phoenix Suns 112-79 on Wednesday night for their 19th straight home win to start the season.

San Antonio successfully rang out an eventful 2015 that saw them add Aldridge in free agency after being bounced from the opening round of the playoffs and open the season with a franchise record home winning streak.

The Spurs also extended their franchise-record home winning streak to 28 straight games dating to last season by holding the Suns to several season lows.

Phoenix, which has lost six straight, had season lows for total points, first-half points (33) and points in the opening quarter (12).

Kawhi Leonard had 19 points, Manu Ginobili added 13 and Tony Parker had 12 points and seven assists for San Antonio (28-6).

Tim Duncan missed his third straight game due to right knee soreness, but he wasn’t needed in a game where Aldridge, Leonard and Parker all sat out the fourth quarter.

San Antonio led by as many as 38 points and never trailed after Phoenix scored the opening basket. The Spurs shut down the Suns’ defensively while exploiting them offensively in their second game since losing Eric Bledsoe to a season-ending knee injury.

Leonard did not have a field attempt in the first 8 minutes of the game as the Spurs instead took advantage of mismatches for Aldridge and David West. In those opening 8 minutes Aldridge had eight points and West had two points and three rebounds. It resulted in two early fouls each Alex Len and Jon Leuer each had two early fouls, forcing Suns coach Jeff Hornacek to go to his bench in the first four minutes.

At other times San Antonio had Phoenix fruitlessly chasing the ball.

Aldridge handed the ball off to West, who tossed the ball cross court to Danny Green. Green drove to the paint from the 3-point line and tossed the ball back to West, who flipped the ball back to Leonard for a corner 3-pointer for a 48-20 lead.

On another possession Boris Diaw lobbed an entry pass to Leonard, who tossed a bounce pass to Aldridge who scored an open layup after throwing Mirza Teletovic off balance by faking an outlet pass.

San Antonio finished with 26 assists and did not commit its first turnover until 2 minutes into the second quarter and finished with 13.

TIP-INS

Suns: Phoenix’s previous low for points in a quarter was 14 on Nov. 6 against Detroit.

Spurs: The Spurs’ 19 straight home wins is the third best start in Western Conference history, trailing the 20 wins by the 1986 Houston Rockets and 26 consecutive by the 1978 Portland Trail Blazers. … The Suns’ 12-point first quarter matched the season low for a Spurs’ opponent set by Philadelphia on Nov. 14.

 

DeRozan scores 34 as Raptors edge Wizards 94-91

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TORONTO (AP) — DeMar DeRozan had 34 points, six rebounds and five assists, and the Toronto Raptors beat the Washington Wizards 94-91 on Wednesday night.

DeRozan went 15 for 15 at the free-throw line as Toronto won its fifth straight regular-season game against the Wizards, who swept the Raptors in the first round of the playoffs last season.

Terrence Ross added 14 points for the Raptors (20-13), who have won three of four. Bismack Biyombo, who started the previous 18 games at center in place of injured Jonas Valanciunas, had 12 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks.

Otto Porter led the Wizards (14-16) with 20 points and nine rebounds. John Wall had 19 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.

The Raptors appeared to be in charge after Wall was assessed a technical foul for complaining about a call against him on Kyle Lowry. Toronto hit that free throw and Lowry’s foul shots to lead 90-81 with 3:13 to go in the fourth quarter.

But the Wizards scored the next seven points. After DeRozan hit two more free throws, Jared Dudley made a 3 with 39 seconds left to cut Toronto’s lead to 92-91.

Dudley had a chance to put Washington in front with less than 20 seconds to go, but his 3-point attempt was long. Lowry then hit a pair of free throws, and Washington missed three 3s in the final seconds that would have tied it.

Valanciunas had eight points and nine rebounds in his first start since Nov. 20.

Toronto carried a 77-65 lead into the fourth quarter. The Wizards pulled within three with 2:59 to go in the third on Dudley’s three-point play, but the Raptors closed out the quarter on a 12-3 run, including a pair of 3s for Ross.

Toronto led 52-41 at halftime. DeRozan had 17 points at the break, including a perfect 8 for 8 from the free-throw line.

TIP-INS

Wizards: G Bradley Beal, averaging a team-best 19.8 points, missed his 10th straight game with a leg injury. The Wizards are 5-5 over that stretch. … Washington was 6 for 26 from the field in the second quarter.

Raptors: After hitting their first two 3s of the night, the Raptors missed nine straight from beyond the arc.

 

Carmelo Anthony on gun violence: “We have to do something”

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Carmelo Anthony was part of the NBA’s anti-gun violence campaign video released last week.

This week, he and the Knicks are dealing with a teammate, Cleanthony Early, who was robbed then shot in the knee late last night in Queens after leaving a club with his girlfriend. Early is out of the hospital, but the impact this could have on his career is crushing.

It led Anthony to speak out about gun violence again after practice Wednesday, and to speak for a lot of NBA players who feel like targets when they go out. From Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News and Andrew Keh of the New York Times:

The need to do something to stem gun violence is a national issue, one that is part of the presidential race.

The money NBA players have — and how much they may have on them in cash and jewelry at any given moment — can make them targets, and it’s part of the reason teams have stepped up security around players during the past decade. Sometime’s it’s to protect the players’ from themselves, but there are times players are targeted (as appears to be the case with Early).

A curfew for players is not the answer — these are grown men in the city where they live — but you can be sure some players are doing some soul-searching in the wake of what happened in New York.

Report: Back in 1996, Celtics seriously considered drafting Kobe

BOSTON - JUNE 13:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers walks off the court after the Boston Celtics won 92-86 during Game Five of the 2010 NBA Finals on June 13, 2010 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. 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 Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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In the end, the Boston Celtics went the safe route and took one of the “super six of ’96” players who could come in and help immediately — Antoine Walker. It was a good pick, as a rookie he averaged 17.5 points per game, by his second season he averaged 22.5 points a game and was an All-Star power forward for Boston.

But he did not have the career of the No. 13 pick in that draft — Kobe Bryant.

As Kobe heads into his final game ever in the Boston Garden Wednesday night, Baxter Holmes of ESPN took a fantastic look back at Kobe’s 1996 workout for the Celtics, how then GM M.L. Carr thought seriously about drafting him (to the point he consulted with Red Auerbach about it), and how things would have been different with Kobe in Celtics’ green.

“I think this kid is going to be a hell of a player,” Auerbach told Carr. “But it can go either way. He seems to be solid, but he’s a high school kid. You’ve got to make a choice based on what you need today. But I think he’s a hell of a player….”

“When I tell you this — and I don’t like to say a lot of good things about the Lakers — but I am absolutely telling you this straight-up: He was unbelievable in the interview,” Carr says. “He was the best interview that I’ve ever been a part of. Kobe knew the league as well as anyone. He knew the Celtics from a historical standpoint. He knew the Celtics probably better than most Celtics did at 17 years old….”

“We didn’t care which one of the six fell to us,” Weitzman says. “We knew we would take one of them because we needed help right away and all six of those guys were prepared to help right away, whereas Kobe, we knew we’d have to wait. And you know how the NBA works — you don’t have a long leash.”

The Celtics took Walker, and the analysis that it would take a few years for Kobe to adjust to the NBA game was accurate. But in retrospect, he would have been worth the wait.

Kobe grew up a Lakers fan, what would have done if the Celtics had drafted him?

“I would’ve tried to carry on Bird’s legacy,” Bryant says without hesitation. “Absolutely. I would’ve done it with a tremendous amount of pride and honor.”

 

 

 

Do yourself a favor and check out the entire Baxter Holmes article, it’s the best thing you’ll read today.

Report: Stephen Curry getting MRI on left leg, likely sits out Wednesday

Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry, right, drives over Sacramento Kings' Ben McLemore during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Dec. 28, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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The Golden State Warriors are going to err on the side of caution when you are talking about their franchise cornerstone. The best player in the NBA. Golden State’s big-ticket draw. Balance all that against a regular season game in December and the scales tilt an obvious direction.

Officially, Stephen Curry is questionable for Wednesday’s night matchup at Dallas. But the tweets coming out of the Warriors camp suggest he will be out Wednesday night, including this first one from the voice of the Warriors, Tim Roye.

I’m sure Curry wants to play, and I’m just as sure the Warriors are going to tell him to sit for a couple of games and get right. He was walking gingerly on that left leg (it’s a calf injury) after the Warriors last game (in which Curry had a triple double), and the team can’t risk further injury with their best player.

Curry being out certainly makes the Warriors more vulnerable, they have been outscored by 5.3 points per 100 possessions when Curry has been on the bench this season (although that number has a lot of noise in it because other starters often sit with him).

If Curry is out, expect a lot more Shaun Livingston. Leandro Barbosa is injured as well and did not travel with the team on this road trip.