Tim Duncan playing for his legacy in Game 7, too

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When the San Antonio Spurs won the 1997 NBA lottery – long before they drafted Tim Duncan – Spurs chairman Peter Holt referenced the Wake Forest big man and said, “The world is our oyster.”

Holt very well could have been imagining multiple Most Valuable Player awards and twice as many championships won by his No. 1 pick. That’s what every team dreams of when it lands the top pick.

The reality is few teams actually get it.

In the last 25 drafts, Duncan is the only No. 1 pick to win a championship with the team that picked him. Going back further, the last top pick to win a title with his original team was David Robinson, who reached the conference finals only once before Duncan showed up.

Holt was right. The world was the Spurs’ oyster, and Duncan was the catalyst for all of it. He spent one season as Robinson’s No. 2 and a short time as the Hall of Famer’s peer and then became the team’s unquestioned top player. Duncan won MVPs in 2002 and 2003 and was center stage for championships in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007 and could be again this season.

But a funny thing happened along the way. Duncan stopped becoming recognized as San Antonio’s top player.

After Duncan was named Finals MVP for the Spurs’ first three titles, Tony Parker won the award in 2007. In each the last five years Parker and/or Manu Ginobili finished ahead of Duncan in regular-season MVP voting.

Duncan is clearly in a different place than LeBron James, whose legacy has been most discussed in the lead up to tonight’s Game 7. Yet, so much is still at stake for Duncan.

With a fifth title, Duncan could erase the biggest advantage Kobe Bryant holds in argument about the greatest player in the era between Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron. Duncan already has more playoff wins than 20 current franchises, and with he could tie the Phoenix Suns tonight. Plus, a fifth title would boost his case as the best power forward of all time.

LeBron, the most scrutinized player of all time, has more to lose, but Duncan is also fighting for his place in history.

At 37, Duncan might not control as much of his own fate as he once did, but he’s still capable of posting 25 points and eight rebounds in a half, as he did in the first two quarters of Game 6. But he also went scoreless in the fourth quarter and overtime as San Antonio lost its lead.

At this point, Duncan can still do plenty, but he clearly needs help. History will remember his fifth title more than how he got it, though. If Duncan summons the production he had in the first half of Game 6 and gets the necessary support, Holt could be singing his praises again – this time on a stage at center of American Airlines Arena.

Once again, the world is the Spurs’ oyster, right there for the taking. Duncan has a chance to seize his legacy, too.

Duncan is a once-in-a-generation player with one more chance to prove he’s the player of his generation.

Draymond Green guarantees Warriors will beat Rockets in Western Conference finals

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Warriors coach Steve Kerr is confident despite his team trailing the Rockets 3-2 in the Western Conference finals.

Golden State forward Draymond Green goes further.

Green, via Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic:

“We still winning this,” Draymond Green said. “Book it.”

Of course, Green is confident. He’d never say he expects his team to lose.

But he didn’t need to frame it this way. He could’ve said he was just focused on the next game rather than make such a bold proclamation.

He’s taking pressure upon himself and putting his reputation on the line. If Golden State loses, especially in Game 6 at home with Chris Paul out, Green will be widely mocked.

If he and the Warriors pull through, he’ll probably deserve praise for setting a tone that helped them advance.

Danny Green: Kawhi Leonard told me he wants to stay with Spurs

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The Spurs are reportedly worried Kawhi Leonard‘s camp wants to get him to the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks or 76ers.

Leonard hasn’t said much himself – except apparently to San Antonio teammate Danny Green

Get Up on ESPN:

Green:

I talk to him here and there, check up on him, see how he’s doing.

I think he wants to be in San Antonio. He’s let me know that. He’s let me know verbally he wanted to be there. So, we’ll see what happens.

Green has tried playing peacemaker throughout this saga – going as far as denying tension that clearly exists. He’s not the most reliable source.

And even if Leonard explicitly told Green he wants to remain in San Antonio, I’m not sure Leonard is confrontational enough to tell Green he wanted out, even if he did.

Those caveats acknowledged, this could be a huge revelation.

If Leonard wants to stay with the Spurs, the next step is meeting with them, mending their relationship and convincing them he deserves a super-max extension (which projects to be worth $219 million over five years). No matter how Leonard feels about San Antonio right now, if the Spurs don’t trust investing so much in him, that could lead to a fractured relationship and his exit.

So, there’s still a lot to sort out. But Green saying this means something.

LeBron James flips elimination-game game on its head

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His Cavaliers down 3-2 to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, how does LeBron James assess his situation?

"I don’t enjoy being in the position where it’s you lose and go home," LeBron said before Game 6 tonight in Cleveland.

He might not enjoy this position, but he’s pretty good in it.

Since he first reached the playoffs in 2006, other teams have won 26% of their elimination games. LeBron’s teams have won 57% of theirs.

Of course, LeBron hasn’t gone 12-9 in elimination games just because he’s lucky. He has willed his team off the mat numerous times.

LeBron has scored 40 points and/or had a triple-double in six straight elimination games, winning five of them. His line in his last elimination game before that streak? Just 32 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists.

A full history of LeBron’s elimination games:

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Rockets played with fire with Chris Paul, got burned

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Chris Paul played 79 minutes in three days.

Prior to Games 4 and 5 of these Western Conference finals, he hadn’t done that in more than two years. He hadn’t done it without both games going to overtime in more than three years.

The Rockets leaned heavily on the 33-year-old Paul, and they’ll pay the price.

Paul will miss Game 6 against the Warriors tomorrow. Given how quickly Houston ruled out Paul with a strained hamstring, he seems unlikely to play in a potential Game 7 Monday.

Injuries are somewhat – but not completely – random. Players are more susceptible when worn down. After missing the close of the 2016 postseason, Paul missed 45 games the last two regular seasons. He has accumulated a lot of mileage in his 13-year career.

Yet, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni drastically shortened his rotation, anyway. Not only did Paul play big minutes in this series, he shouldered a huge load. He took the reins of the offense at times, allowing James Harden to conserve energy for defense, while maintaining his own strong-two way play. That’s never easy, especially in these high-intensity games.

This was the risk.

We can feel bad for Paul and his predicament. We can also acknowledge Houston got this far by gambling on Paul’s health.

That’s not to say it was a bad bet. This is what you save him for, the biggest playoff series of his career and maybe one of the last before he exits his prime. The Rockets would have been far worse off to this point resting Paul extensively and protecting him. Even with such a heavy workload, an injury was never fait accompli. And Houston got plenty from Paul before he went down. He was instrumental to wins in Game 4 and Game 5 that gave the Rockets a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Now, they just must hope that’s enough of a head-start into a world of playing without Paul.