Kurt Helin

Lupe Lemos

Celebrating the bond between Spurs, San Antonio

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Every NBA city’s relationship with its team is a little bit different.

Celtics fans wear their green passion on their sleeves (or on the shamrock tattoos they when it’s too warm for sleeves). Lakers fans get poked fun of because of the celebrity culture, but the reality is in a transient town love of the Lakers is one of the few generational bonds for the average Los Angeles resident. Warriors fans feel they are finally being rewarded for years of loyalty through bad ownership (the previous regime).

San Antonio’s love of the Spurs is something unique.

San Antonio isn’t a small town — it’s America’s seventh largest city — but it has the feel of one. And that small town feel meshes perfectly with the Spurs personalities and brand of basketball, something Travis Hale tries to explain in a fantastic long-form piece at NBC’s Sports World.

Translated, “puro” means “pure,” and it is the single-word battle-cry to describe life here. For all our struggles, challenges and pitfalls, life in San Antonio is pure. And, regardless of race, income bracket, or neighborhood, all San Antonians take a measure of pride in our puro. The Spurs have their own identity, their own beautiful brand of basketball. San Antonians have a uniqueness, too, and that fierce independence so alive in both has made the love affair strong. The blue-collar city beautifully pairs with her blue-blooded basketball team….

The Spurs recent accomplishments are well known. Five NBA titles in the last 16 years and a slew of Hall of Fame players have called San Antonio home. But here’s a little-known secret: The Spurs are so much more than banners and shimmering, golden Larry O’Brien trophies on display. Sure, the championship seasons are fodder for the best memories. But more than anything, those banners serve as validation for a city whose inhabitants often feel overlooked in favor of the larger, shinier cities in the state….

Just before midnight, after the Spurs defeated the Heat and won their fifth title and the last of the press conferences had wrapped up, I walked out onto the court. The floor was covered in confetti and people, but it wasn’t fans or VIPs who were celebrating. It was the ushers and vendors and paid staff of the AT&T Center taking pictures and making snow angels in the piles of confetti on the floor. It was employees of Spurs Sports & Entertainment, celebrating an NBA championship on the hardwood of the AT&T Center late into the night. It was all the people that make the machine run, but few ever see. It was the Spurs Family. The nameless, faceless “little people” that make the big things possible.

Go read the entire story. It’s impossible to ever truly define and entire large city in one bit of writing. But this story comes as close to defining the intricate relationship of San Antonio with the Spurs as you are going to see.

Phil Jackson asks Knicks fans to “remain optimistic”

New York Knicks v Los Angeles Lakers
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Did Phil Jackson just ask New York Knicks fans to be optimistic? This rings of the end of Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” where the cast sings “Always look on the bright side of life” while being crucified.

It’s been a historically bad season in New York. The Knicks are 14-60 — that’s both the worst record in the NBA and the most losses in Knicks franchise history.

Jackson felt he needed to address the Knicks season ticket holders as the team approaches the draft and free agency, and did so in a letter and video that ESPN got a hold of. Of course, Jackson tried to put a positive spin on things in what was essentially a pitch to season ticket holders.

“While I know this has been a challenging season for our team on the court, I can also tell you that everyone in the organization is working tirelessly to get our Knicks back to a place where we are once again competing at the highest level,” Jackson said in a video message…

“We have made key roster moves to free up significant cap space that will provide us greater flexibility to acquire talent in this summer’s free agency,” Jackson said. “And for the first time in many years, we expect to have a top pick in the NBA Draft this June. These are key steps to building a roster of players that have both the talent and character to win in New York and who, alongside Carmelo Anthony, will become a team that can become a consistent winner.”

Jackson also tweeted out this:

Phil Jackson deserves credit for this: Unlike previous years the Knicks didn’t squander assets to look for a short-term fix that got them into the playoffs but hurt them long term. That has been standard operating procedure for the Knicks under James Dolan for far too long. Rather than bottom out at all in a rebuild, they would trade picks and young players to bring back guys who got them into the playoffs, but never made them a contender.

That alone is good reason for Knicks fans to be patient. As for optimism… good luck selling that in New York. But things can and should improve.

The Knicks have Carmelo Anthony (hopefully healthy). They have what will be at least a top four draft pick, plus young players they like such as Tim Hardaway Jr. and Langston Galloway. They have cap space — not only to chase stars, who likely do not come (Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge, for example), but also to round out the roster with quality, high IQ players who can fit in the triangle offense. This year’s roster — which Jackson had a hand in building — was a terrible fit for the offense Derek Fisher was installing. The Knicks need to get the kind of veterans who can move the ball and shoot that fit in the triangle. Then they need to get better buy-in from Anthony on the offense.

The Knicks are not poised for a one-year leap to contenders, but in the East they could make the playoffs next season with the right summer moves. They could build a foundation that would intrigue top free agents in 2016.

This summer we start to see if Phil Jackson really can do this job. And if he does his then we get a better sense of if Derrick Fisher can coach this team and system.

Kyle Korver scores 11 points in 65 seconds (VIDEO)

Milwaukee Bucks v Atlanta Hawks
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In a season where Kyle Korver’s three point shooting has at times seemed inhuman — a “slump” has him down to 49.8 percent from three on the season, taking six threes a game — this may be his best shooting display.

The only reason it wasn’t 12 points in 65 seconds is his foot was on the line on one shot.

You see in this video what has made Korver an All-Star this season — he runs the floor hard, he gets to his spots, he works hard off the ball, he’s constantly moving to get open, and he has a quick release. He is part of what makes the Atlanta attack dangerous; you have to always account for him. In transition, on the weakside, wherever he is you can’t leave him, or the ball finds him and then finds the net.

Five Things We Learned in NBA Monday: DeMar DeRozan went Harden on Harden

Toronto Raptors vs Houston Rockets
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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while thinking about the physical toll being an NBA player puts on one’s body

1) DeMar DeRozan out Hardened James Harden. What James Harden does better than anyone is relentlessly attack. He’s going to get to the line, he’s going to hit a couple ridiculous shots, he’s going to put the pressure on your defense. He did all that against the Toronto Raptors Monday on his way to 31 points — but DeMar DeRozan did them better. He got to the free throw line 17 times; he hit a couple ridiculous turn-around jumpers, and in the end he put up 42 points. More importantly, his struggling Toronto Raptors picked up an important win. (Memphis would like to thank him as well, as they move back to the two seed.

2) Kyle Korver is a T-2000 terminator sent from the future to shoot threes and destroy the NBA. How else do you explain his 11 points in 65 seconds?

3) Avery Bradley helped Boston stay right in the playoff mix. Boston picked up a key win in their drive to make the playoffs Monday dropping 116 points on Charlotte — Boston had an offensive rating of 129.5 (points per 100 possessions). The key was Boston had fantastic ball movement for the night, and that plays right into Avery Bradley’s game — he moves better off the ball and finds space better than he sometimes gets credit for. He was finding that space at the top of the key area and on wing threes. With the win, Boston moved back into the eight seed in the east past Brooklyn for a night in a battle that will go on right up until the final night of the season.

4) Jordan Clarkson hits game winner to the frustration of Lakers’ fans. This is Adam Silver’s nightmare: The Lakers and Sixers faced off Monday night, and large swaths of both fan bases were rooting for their favorite team to lose. It’s all about the lottery balls; the Sixers had the third-worst record in the NBA while the Lakers were fourth. If Philly had won just one game would have separated the two, but instead Jordan Clarkson hit the game winner in OT, and the Lakers picked up the road win. With that, LA has a three-game lead over Philly and is going to finish with the fourth worst record. (If, after the lottery, the Lakers have top 5 pick they get to keep it, if not it goes to Philly, all stemming from the Steve Nash trade. The Lakers have about an 80 percent chance of keeping that pick as fourth worst.) Both of these franchises should just be glad right now the NBA doesn’t have relegation like European soccer.

5) The Knicks apparently need a big with a “big butt.” Maybe the most discussed thing in the NBA online universe Monday was what former Phil Jackson confidante (and long time talking head) Charley Rosen told the New York Post about the Knicks and the triangle offense.

“They need a center with a big butt to hold space,’’ Rosen told The Post. “They didn’t have anybody like that. It takes away a major portion of what you can do with the triangle because then it really becomes just a perimeter offense.’’

 

He suggests Greg Monroe would be a better fit than drafting someone like Karl Towns out of Kentucky.

Two thoughts:

First, Rosen isn’t wrong in that the Knicks need a presence inside. Although I would suggest what the Knicks need more than anything is talent upgrades pretty much anywhere they can get one, getting a presence inside is part of that.

Second, it brings up another question discussed around New York (and parts of the NBA): Can Phil Jackson’s version of the triangle still work and still win in the NBA? That triangle looked great when the ball could just be thrown into Shaq in the post, but will that still work in a zone-defense/overload world where before Shaq gets the ball on the block the double team is already there? NBA defenses have changed and if you haven’t adapted — as the Spurs, Hawks, Warriors and other teams have done — you’ll struggle. Will that slow down the Knicks’ recovery?

Hard to tell until they get more talent on the roster.

Timberwolves finally rule Nikola Pekovic out for season

Charlotte Bobcats v Minnesota Timberwolves
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The last time we saw Nikola Pekovic on the court for the Timberwolves it was March 11 against the Suns. His ankles were sore, the ankles that have been a problem for him for a couple seasons now.

For a while now we knew the Timberwolves had basically shut him down for the season — it’s not like they need him for the playoffs — but of course they wouldn’t admit it. Because coaches and teams are like that for reasons that are sometimes hard to grasp.

Monday, coach Flip Saunders owned up to it.

Pekovic averaged 12.5 points a game (on just 42.4 percent shooting) plus had 7.5 rebounds a night when he could play. He’s a solid center if one who is overpaid for what he can deliver at $12 million a season — and his contract runs through the summer of 2018.

Gorgui Dieng is the big man of the future for Minnesota, but they will have Pekovic around for a while.

Minnesota needs to get Pekovic’s ankles right or limit his minutes in season (they tried this year). Or both.