Kurt Helin

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Tony Parker says he wants to play five more years with Spurs

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At age 34, Tony Parker‘s impressive international career is over.

But he’s not done in the NBA — he wants to go until he’s 39.

Parker was in a reflective mood after his final international game Wednesday — a loss to Spain that eliminated France from the Rio Olympics —but he told Jeff Zillgitt of the USA Today he want to play in the NBA until he is pushing 40.

“I want to end my Spurs career on a high note. I want to play five more years,” Parker said.

Parker is under contract for this season and next with the Spurs. For years his name came up in trade rumors, but nothing came close to fruition.

While he is still a good player who can dial up stretches of his vintage self, Parker has seen slippage in his game the past couple NBA seasons. Incredible quickness was always at the core of Parker’s game — on offense he could get to the rim at will, on defense he could stay in front of many guards — but he has been slowed a step the last couple seasons, due to injury and age. That process is not going to reverse itself. He relies more on a midrange game and smart play.

Parker will be sharing more responsibilities with Patty Mills at the point this coming season. But if Parker is willing to gracefully accept a smaller role, he is the kind of smart veteran player Popovich will want to keep around. Maybe for five more seasons.

Calf injury could keep Paul Gasol out of (or slow him during) Olympic semifinal vs. USA

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Spain remains the biggest threat to the USA’s gold medal plans in Rio. Don’t take my word for it, ask Mike Krzyzewski and the USA coaching staff. Or just do a head-to-head comparison: The USA beat France by 3, Spain beat them yesterday by 25.

But Spain’s anchor Pau Gasol is battling a calf injury that could keep him out Friday, or more likely just limit him.

Here is what Spanish coach Sergio Scariolo said to the Spanish media in Rio, via Eurohoops.net.

“He is not well, I can not say for sure that he is going to play. We continue with his treatments and the truth is that we needed him right now. We hope his condition to evolve well and at least be ready to help as much as he can his teammates in the game. I can not say anything more right now.”

Part mind game? Likely. I’d be shocked if Gasol didn’t suit up for the biggest game to date in the Olympics. But if he’s limited, that would be big.

Gasol leads Spain — which has rolled Argentina, Lithuania, and France in its last three games — with 17 points per game on 51.3 percent shooting, plus he leads the Olympics averaging 8.7 rebounds a game. He’s dishing out 2.3 assists a game, too.

Gasol’s below-the-rim game is not based on explosive athleticism; it’s about a high hoops IQ and rock-solid fundamentals. Even slowed some, he could be trouble for the USA.

It’s something to watch as the game goes on Friday, tipping off at 2:45 Eastern on NBC Sports Network.

USA ends brilliant international career of Manu Ginobili, Argentina’s “Golden Generation”

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Listening to the crowd for the final five minutes of play, you would have had no idea the game was a blowout.

Wednesday in Rio, Manu Ginobili just didn’t have enough clever playmaking — and, more importantly, enough energy in his legs — to lift Argentina to an upset of Team USA. The 105-78 loss spells the end of Argentina in these Olympics.

It also spells the end of international play for Argentina’s golden generation, which was led by Ginobili and included Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino, and Andres Nocioni.

For the final five minutes of a game where Argentina trailed by more than 20, a loyal and raucous Argentinian fan base serenaded and thanked Ginobili and the golden generation in the only way they knew how. After the game, they kept on cheering as Ginobili and company stayed on the court, hugged one another in tears, and accepted the adulation of their fans.

We should all say thank you to them.

It was this core group of players — even more than the excellent Spanish and French teams that followed — that changed the dynamic of international basketball and showed teams they could beat the USA. It was Ginobili, with both his international and NBA play, that was the best evangelist for David Stern’s gospel of NBA globalization.

It was Argentina that handed the USA its first post-Dream Team loss, beating them in group play during the 2002 World Championships in Indianapolis. It was Argentina that crushed the USA in the semifinals of the 2004 Athens Olympics that sent the USA to bronze. The Argentinians were clear and away the better team in that tournament. It was that day that USA basketball changed, and soon Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski were put in charge of changing the USA Basketball culture — of trying to build the kind of continuity and team chemistry that Argentina had shown.

Argentina went on to win the gold in Athens. Only the USA, Soviet Union, and Argentina have ever won men’s basketball gold.

This remains a very tight Argentinian group, one that had been playing together since their teens. They grew up together on that international stage, and while they went down different paths with their club careers — Ginobili picking up four titles, a Sixth Man of the Year award, a couple of All-Star appearances, and incredible respect as a member of the Spurs — they always came back to their international team bond.

That bond is why after a 2012 London Olympics, when they said they would part ways, they changed their minds and came back for one more run at it in Rio.

Wednesday night that came to an end, at it was emotional for them. Ginobili — who had 14 points and 7 assists against the USA — was given the game ball and hugged it close all through his press conference.

Argentina was a longshot to medal in Rio, and then had the misfortune to be matched up with the USA in the quarterfinals (they didn’t have the size and athleticism to keep pace with the Americans).

This summer the international basketball stage has said goodbye to Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, and now Manu Ginobili. Things will never quite be the same.

But none of those legends had the impact on the international game that Manu did.

DeAndre Jordan on gold medals: “I think they’re above NBA rings”

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Spoken like a guy in Rio trying to win one, DeAndre Jordan is pumping up the value of a gold medal.

Jordan and the rest of his USA teammates enter the win-or-go-home tournament phase of the Rio Olympics on Wednesday, taking on Manu Ginobili and Argentina (5:45 Eastern on the NBC Sports Network). The Americans have not dominated the competition, they need to play better (particularly on defense), but they remain the heavy favorites to win gold.

Jordan spoke with Marc Stein and Mark Schwarz of ESPN about the USA’s three-game quest for gold.

“I think they’re above NBA rings,” Jordan told ESPN… “I may get in trouble for saying that, but I believe that. I feel like this is more special. You’re not just playing teams in the U.S. You’re playing teams from all over the world. And this is even more special because there’s an NBA champion crowned every year, but this is every four years.

“You’ve got to really think about that, man, because it’s extremely special.”

The Twitter snark will start in 3…2…1…

Jordan is right, a gold medal is extremely special. Fewer NBA players have one of those than an NBA title. It is an experience and a chance to represent your country not a lot of people get.

But it’s different from an NBA title. The grind, the marathon, that a team must survive to win an NBA title is a tougher road than even this USA team faces to win gold. The mountain to climb to get an NBA title is much more challenging — the separation between the quality of teams at the top of the NBA is narrow, that is not the case in the Olympics. Jordan knows that, he has been on a good Clipper team that can’t get out of the second round.

That said, Jordan should be pumping himself up to win gold — he needs to play better to make sure the USA gets one.

Hornets’ Charlotte arena renamed “Spectrum Center”

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If you’ve followed the NBA for years, then you remember Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson playing at the Philadelphia Spectrum. That legendary building was torn down six years ago.

But now there is a new Spectrum in the NBA.

The Charlotte Hornets’ arena, which had been called the Time Warner Center, will now be called the “Spectrum Center” the team announced Wednesday. The reason is part of the rebranding of Time Warner in its merger with Charter (Spectrum is the name of Charter’s digital services for consumers).

From the official press release:

“We are pleased to have Charter’s Spectrum brand become a part of our arena as Charter prepares to make its entrance into the Charlotte area,” said Hornets Sports & Entertainment President & COO Fred Whitfield.  “We look forward to partnering with Charter for many years to come as we continue to provide the best in sports and entertainment for Charlotte and the Carolinas at Spectrum Center.”

Nothing else changes, this is just a renaming.

The now Spectrum Center was to be host to the 2017 NBA All-Star Game, but the league pulled it in protest of the HB2 “bathroom law” put in place in the state. This season’s All-Star Game appears headed to New Orleans, but the game could come to Charlotte in 2019 if there is a change in the law (2018 is in Los Angeles).