Tag: Tim Duncan

Miami Heat v Detroit Pistons

Erik Spoelstra: Heat’s starting lineup needs time before it’ll succeed


Who has the NBA’s best starting lineup?

The Warriors (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut)?

The Cavaliers (Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Timofey Mozgov)?

The Spurs (Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan)?

The Clippers (Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Paul Pierce, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan)?

Take your pick between those four or other contenders like the Thunder, Rockets or Bulls.

But there’s one team that belongs in the discussion despite two oddities:

  • All five projected starters played for the team last season, but its projected starting lineup didn’t log a single minute together.
  • The team missed the playoffs.

Yup, the Heat with Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside.

Bosh was sidelined for the rest of the season with blood clots just after Miami traded for Dragic. So, the lineup’s debut was postponed to this season.

On paper, the Heat have it all – offense and defense inside and out. They’re balanced, and nobody is playing out of position.

But Miami coach Erik Spoelstra cautions against expecting instant gratification.

Spoelstra, via Zach Lowe of Grantland:

“It’s not the kind of lineup where you can just throw it out there, and you know it will work,” Spoelstra says. “It’s going to take practice.”

The biggest question with the Heat’s top lineup is health, especially Wade. He’s 33 and has a history of knee problems. There are also questions about Whiteside’s ability to perform over a full season, Bosh’s rust and Deng’s longevity.

But those are all individual concerns.

Like I said, there’s a lot to like about this unit as a whole. The one area for caution is probably Dragic and Wade sharing ball-handling duties. Though they play different positions – Dragic point guard and Wade shooting guard – both are used to being the lead guard. That could take more time to sort out.

Mostly, though, I think Spoelstra is just trying to lower expectations. The less people think of a team, the more opportunity the coach has to impress (and the less blame he’ll take if the team falters).

Friday night video fun: Best hustle plays of 2014-15 season

2015 NBA Finals - Game Five
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In two months, we’ll be watching real NBA regular season games.

Until then, we will have to go to YouTube to get our fix. Over at NBA.com, they put together a mix tape of the best hustle plays of the 2014-15 season and nothing will make you jones for a game that matters like these kinds of plays.

It’s not a coincidence you see stars like Chris Paul, LeBron James, Tim Duncan and Russell Westbrook in a highlight package like this. But don’t worry, there’s some Matthew Dellavedova, too.

LaMarcus Aldridge says he’s not trying to fill Tim Duncan’s shoes

San Antonio Spurs v Portland Trail Blazers
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There is not going to be another Tim Duncan. Ever. That high-IQ, fundamentally sound game with sustained success throughout his career, the five rings, the two MVPs, the three Finals MVPs, the lifting of one small market franchise up to the summit of the game and keeping it there for 15 years, it’s an incredible legacy.

Nobody understands there is not going to be another Duncan like LaMarcus Aldridge.

Aldridge had his pick of NBA landing spots chose the Spurs, but he wants people to know that stepping into Duncan’s shoes was not in his plans — in part because Duncan is still in those shoes. He talked with Sam Amick of the USA Today about whether he was worried about Duncan’s shadow.

“No, because I’m not trying to be Tim Duncan. I’m not trying to fill his shoes. No one is going to fill his shoes. First of all, he started there and he ended there. I’m not doing that. I didn’t start there. There’s no pressure, because I didn’t start there and I’m not trying to be him. My game is totally different than his.

“I never had any issues with it. I think the media blew it up more, like I’m trying to fill his spot and take his role. I was like, ‘No, I’m trying to be me.’ I feel like me being there with Pop in the system with the guys, I should be ok. That was what I was weighing: Go to Phoenix, be the face and the guy, or go to San Antonio and probably win sooner and be more blended in. That was my issue. And I was like, ‘If y’all want me to come here and average 12 or 13 points, that’s not who I am. I like scoring.’ They were like, ‘No, we want you to play in the system, but you scoring is needed here.’ Once I heard that, I was fine.”

It will be interesting to see how Aldridge’s need for touches and points plays out in the more team-first culture Duncan and Gregg Popovich have built. They do need his scoring, but it’s also about the threat of Aldridge’s scoring that opens up shots for everyone. He has to buy into that team concept for it all to work (and I expect he will).

With that, Aldridge’s scoring may take a slight dip — he will command double teams in the post (and at the elbow, and a lot of other places) and when he passes out of that the Spurs will whip the ball to an open shooter. He’s not just getting a re-post.

What Aldridge brings is an upgrade of Tiago Splitter, a player who can protect the paint and play good defense, and then on the other end scores inside and opens everything up. Aldridge can also pick-and-pop with Tony Parker (and Manu Ginobili). He can knock down midrange fadeaways. There are a lot of options.

And they all work because Aldridge is Aldridge and not Duncan.


Alvin Gentry understands great opportunity, challenge coaching Anthony Davis

Golden State Warriors v New Orleans Pelicans - Game Four

At any one time in the NBA, there are at best a handful of guys who will go down as legendary, all-time great NBA players. The men mentioned in the same breath as the best ever to lace them up. Right now there is LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan…

And Anthony Davis.

Davis is just 22, and we are a decade from knowing if he should ultimately be compared to the Duncans and LeBrons of the game — but he is on that trajectory. After just three NBA seasons, he is undoubtedly a top five NBA player and arguably in the top two. His PER of 30.8 last season was 11th best all time in the NBA; the only people ahead of him are named LeBron, Chamberlain, and Jordan. He will wear the crown of best player on the planet in a few years. He has an NCAA title, an Olympic gold medal, two All-Star games and one All-NBA Team to his credit, and he’s still just tapping into how great he can be.

It falls in part to new Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry to help him reach his potential.

No pressure.

Gentry talked with NBA.com’s Ian Thompson about that burden, what he has spoken with Davis about, and what he has to do as a coach to guide Davis to that potential.

“It is up to us to make him as good as he can possibly be, and not settle for him to be less than great in this area or that area. I told him that I have no doubt that he is going to be an MVP in this league. And I said to him, ‘We are going to be really, really good if you also win Defensive Player of the Year….’

“It’s like I said to him: As great as he is right now, I see his game expanding in so many areas,” says Gentry of Davis. “And the thing I like about it is he is still willing to learn. I sent Darren Erman, who is my associate head coach and defensive coordinator, to work with him, and he showed him a couple of little things from last year that he had to improve on. And every day Anthony has been working on them. Every single day. Guys usually don’t work on defensive things when you are having a workout, but he has been great at it.

“He is just a special player, and we can’t set limits on him. We have to try to take him to a level that he didn’t feel he could get to — or that no one thought he could get to. We have got to make the sky the limit for him.”

Gentry picked another great player with a legendary work ethic as a potential role model for Davis — Kevin Garnett.

“I told Anthony this — and I think it’s very important — about Kevin Garnett,” says Gentry. “I never had the opportunity to coach him, but I know guys that coached him, and they say that every day Kevin Garnett came into the gym, he had to know that when he left he was a little bit better than he was yesterday.”

Gentry’s style will help here, too. Gentry wants the game to be fun (something he said Steve Kerr emphasized last year). He wants the Pelicans to play faster, which will help Davis both get some transition buckets and get deep position more often. He has emphasized defense (the Pelicans struggled on that end last season). New Orleans is going to take a step forward this season, the only question is now big (and how far they can go in a loaded West).

But in a lot of ways, Gentry’s job (and GM Dell Demps’ job) is to get everything around Davis right. Davis himself will be amazing, but as we have seen through LeBron’s career the players around him will matter, getting those players to buy into the system will matter. Davis isn’t winning rings — which he will need for his legacy — by himself.

It’s a lot of pressure, but there may be no guy more ready for it than Gentry.

Kawhi Leonard: “I want to be an all-star and MVP of the regular season”

Los Angeles Clippers v San Antonio Spurs - Game Three

The traditional arc for an NBA player is for them to chase numbers and try to get paid early in their career, then near the end they start making sacrifices for a team in hopes of getting a ring.

Kawhi Leonard has flipped that arc. From the beginning of his career he was on a Spurs team that was about sacrifice — Tim Duncan led the way, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili bought in fully. Four seasons in Leonard has a ring and a Finals MVP.

Now he may be looking to get some personal accolades, to go along with his winning. Look at what he told David Zink of Press Enterprise (hat tip Eye on Basketball)

“Winning just rubs off on you, once you see Manu (Ginobili), Tony (Parker) and Tim (Duncan) wanting to win every game.”

Now that’s he’s reached a new plateau professionally, Leonard says he’s ready to make another big leap.

“I want to be an (NBA) all-star and MVP of the regular season,” said Leonard. “I’m trying to be one of the greatest players so whatever level that consists of is where I want to take my game.”

The Spurs want him to be those things. They are paying him become the franchise face and cornerstone after Tim Duncan retires, or at least to share that with LaMarcus Aldridge for a while.

Eventually, that means Leonard taking on more of the scoring load — he averaged 16.5 points per game last season, and with the added depth on the roster that may not jump much in the short-term. But if he’s going to get in the regular season MVP consideration, he’s going to have to be closer to 20 points per game and set a tone on offense.

Leonard may do all that, but he’s not going to give up team play to do it.