Not everybody loves Gregg Popovich.
Meet DeJuan Blair. You might remember him as the big man without ACLs who played pretty well for the Spurs — he started all but four games two seasons ago and averaged 9.5 points a game. However, he fell out of the rotation last season as Popovich went with the bigger, more solid defender that is Tiago Splitter. Popovich also liked the shooting that Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner brought to the lineup, so they got more run than Blair.
Those rotation changes helped San Antonio improve it’s defensive rating by two points per 100 possessions and saw them reach the NBA Finals.
But Blair, now a Maverick, is pretty bitter about the changes and slammed Popovich to the Dallas Morning News (via Project Spurs) by saying the Spurs would have won if he had gotten run.
When asked about getting back to the NBA Finals, Blair, “Of course I want to get back. I don’t think we’ve [Spurs] would have came up short if I would’ve played but, hey, keep that out there.”
If Blair were out there, the Spurs likely are not in the Finals, but we shouldn’t let a few pesky facts get in the way of our resentments. Besides, Spurs fans know they were just a made free throw or defensive rebound away from winning it, not more Blair.
Blair should be warned, however, that Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is as old school a disciplinarian as Popovich when it comes to minutes and team structure. He should get more run on this Dallas roster, but if he wants to see his minutes dry up fast he should try slamming Carlisle and his rotations.
Front offices of potential contenders from Los Angeles to Philadelphia have their eyes on the Chicago Bulls — will the struggling Bulls pivot to chase Victor Wembanyama and the top of the lottery, making them sellers at the trade deadline? Teams have interest in Chicago’s three stars: Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.
Except just-extended LaVine isn’t currently available, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Wednesday on his network’s pregame show discussing the Knicks.
“The Knicks will be watching Chicago. Is Zach LaVine a player who before the deadline possibly can become available? He certainly isn’t now.”
Chicago is not yet ready to pivot to tanking, so none of its stars are truly available. That said, the Bulls don’t look like a playoff team, they miss Lonzo Ball, and even if things do come together where do they stand in the East hierarchy? If the Bulls do become sellers, they aren’t going to tear this team down to the studs, it would likely be trading just one star. Possibly a second if the offer was strong enough.
LaVine — who signed a five-year, $215 million extension this past summer — is the least likely to be available, league sources have told NBC Sports. The expectation is that Vucevic would be the Bull first made available if the Bulls decide to start seriously listening to offers. And that remains an “if.”
That said, front offices around the league have their eyes trained on Chicago.
John Collins is out for at least another week with a sprained ankle. DeAndre Hunter has been out with a strained hip flexor.
Now you can add Dejounte Murray to the Hawks’ growing injury report, he is out at least 2-3 weeks with a sprained ankle, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic report.
The injury happened on a closeout from RJ Barrett of the Knicks.
The Hawks have already had chemistry and fit issues this season, and missing key players for an extended period only exacerbates the problem. Atlanta looked flat getting their doors blown off by the Knicks Wednesday night, 113-89, a game that added to a string where they have lost 5-of-7. Now they will have to find a way to right the ship without their second-best playmaker.
There also is an update on the Hawks’ play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun.
Brittney Griner is finally coming home.
The WNBA and USA Basketball star has spent 10 months in Russian prisons — including being convicted and sent to a Russian penal colony — for having vape canisters with small amounts of cannabis oil in her luggage as she went through Russian airport security back in February. She became a political pawn in the tensions between the United States and Russia, mostly surrounding Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, and was freed via a prisoner swap announced Thursday.
The basketball world — WNBA players in particular — had worked to keep her name front and not let Griner be forgotten during this ordeal, pushing President Joe Biden and the government to reach a deal. With the news Griner was freed, NBA and WNBA players took to social media to react.
“Brittney has had to endure an unimaginable situation and we’re thrilled that she is on her way home to her family and friends,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We thank the members of the NBA and WNBA community who never wavered in their efforts to raise awareness of Brittney’s unjust circumstances.”
“We are overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that our sister Brittney Griner is finally coming home,” the NBPA said in a statement. “Her strength and courage throughout this last year have been truly remarkable, as have the efforts of her wife Cherelle, our WNBPA sisters, Terri Jackson and the WNBPA staff, who have been relentless in their call to bring Brittney home. We know this homecoming would not have been possible without their unwavering support and continued work to keep BG always top of mind, and our players are honored to have contributed to those efforts. While this is a celebratory moment for our sisters and us, we must not forget the other political prisoners who remain in dire circumstances all over the world. These individuals must be remembered and fought for every single day as BG was so that they too can have this moment. Welcome home Brittney, we are so happy to have you back! #WeAreBG”
Anthony Davis has played at an MVP level for weeks now, outdueling even Giannis Antetokounmpo recently in a Lakers’ win. LeBron James is still a force at age 37, Russell Westbrook has accepted the role and has been a game-changer as a sixth man, and the Lakers’ role players are hitting their 3-pointers.
It’s been an impressive run, but can the Lakers keep it up and be a genuine threat in the West? Corey Robinson of NBC Sports and I discuss all that, plus whether the now-healthy Clippers can find a groove and become a threat.
In Corey’s Jukebox he dances a little salsa and explains how Nikola Jokic is like Beethoven. Then there is talk of the Kyle Kuzma trade rumors, and what exactly are the long-term plans in Washington.
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