Gregg Popovich: Spurs have never chased No. 1 seed

3 Comments

There’s nothing wrong with trying to secure a No. 1 seed. The top seed gets homecourt advantage through at least the conference playoffs, and that’s, um, an advantage.

But going for the No. 1 seed can take a toll, increasing pressure and exhausting a team through a long season. See Pacers, Indiana.

Gregg Popovich has a clear opinion on which approach is better.

Announcement: Pro Basketball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $70,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Wednesday night’s games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $9,000. Starts at 7pm ET on Wednesday. Here’s the FanDuel link.

Remarkably, the Spurs have more No. 1 seeds in the last 15 years than any other team, anyway.

image

San Antonio as No. 1 seed in last 15 years:

  • 2011-12: Went 50-16, lost to Oklahoma City Thunder in conference finals
  • 2010-11: Went 61-21, lost to Memphis Grizzlies in first round
  • 2005-06: Went 63-19, lost to Dallas Mavericks in second round
  • 2002-03: Went 60-22, won NBA championship
  • 2000-01: Went 58-24, lost to Los Angels Lakers in conference finals
  • 1998-99: Went 37-13, won NBA championship

The Spurs, who lead the second-place Thunder by 3.5 games, are on the verge of receiving yet another No. 1 seed.

Quite the feat. And it’s even more remarkable if you believe Popovich – and I do.

People sometimes underplay their motivations, making their accomplishments seem accidental – adding a level of humblebrag to increase the noteworthiness.

Claiming six No. 1 seeds in 15 years is impressive no matter what. Doing it when you’re not trying to is better. That make it sound as if you can’t help but win so much. Imagine what the Spurs could do if they were trying.

You can see why Popovich would embellish to draw more credit.

But all other evidence supports his claims. He famously rests his top players frequently, both limiting their minutes per game and even total games. And as Kurt recently wrote, “Gregg Popovich has reached the ‘I don’t care what people think’ phase of his career… actually that might have started Day 3 of his tenure in San Antonio, but the coach is taking it to new levels lately.”

This is the real deal.

The Spurs have the NBA’s best record despite not setting out to get it. As other teams give maximum effort to win as many regular-season games as possible, the Spurs don’t worry about that.

Just imagine what happens when they start trying in the playoffs.

Austin Rivers opting in for $12.65 million with Clippers

AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker
Leave a comment

Austin Rivers‘ three-year, $35,475,000 contract caused resentment within the Clippers when his father – Clippers coach and then-president Doc Rivers – gave it to the guard in 2016.

But don’t think for a moment that will bother Austin into bypassing $12.65 million next season.

Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

That high salary will put a target even more squarely on Rivers’ back, but he’s used to it.

He’ll be overpaid, but he can still help the Clippers. Maybe that’s as an expiring contract used to facilitate a larger trade. Maybe that’s on the court. L.A. will reportedly drop guard Milos Teodosic. The Clippers, with the Nos. 12 and 13 picks in tonight’s draft, could select another guard, but few rookie point guards are reliable.

Report: Spurs ‘shut the door’ on Lakers’ Kawhi Leonard trade inquiry

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
6 Comments

After shooting down trade inquiries before the trade deadline and brushing off proposals earlier this offseason, the Spurs are reportedly hearing out offers for Kawhi Leonard.

Except from the Lakers.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

The Lakers are reportedly Leonard’s preferred destination. Of course, San Antonio isn’t obligated to send him there. But he can influence the process by stating a plan to sign with only certain team(s) in 2019 unrestricted free agency.

The Celtics and 76ers might have better assets to send the Spurs. But if only the Lakers have a commitment from Leonard to re-sign, they might offer a greater share of their assets than Boston or Philadelphia would (especially if Los Angeles believes acquiring Leonard would be the first domino in also landing LeBron James and Paul George).

Between Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and future first-round picks, the Lakers could offer roughly commensurate value for Leonard. San Antonio might not like those particular players, but a third team could always get involved. Send some combination of Ball, Ingram, Kuzma and Hart to a team that wants them and have that third team convey players more desirable to the Spurs.

But that takes thoughtful negotiating, and San Antonio doesn’t seem interested.

There’s a belief San Antonio won’t trade Leonard to a Western Conference team, especially another historically strong franchise like the Lakers. That sentiment seems foolish to me, but it didn’t emerge out of thin air. There are real people – and real hurt feelings – involved here. Grudges sometimes trump rationality.

Maybe the Spurs will eventually explore whether the Lakers present the best offer. But this is at least circumstantial evidence San Antonio will handle this crisis stubbornly.

League buzz: Kings will take Marvin Bagley III at No. 2, Luka Doncic gone at three

2 Comments

It’s hard to see through all the smoke and tell if things around the 2018 NBA Draft are solidifying as we get to fewer than three hours before the Phoenix Suns go on the clock.

The Suns are a lock to take DeAndre Ayton at No. 1.

After that, the Kings more and more seem to be leaning toward taking Marvin Bagley III at No. 2, according to multiple reports of those close to the team.

At three things really open up. Atlanta is listening to trade offers but one way or another is likely to pick Luka Doncic. There are rumors that multiple teams — Dallas, Orlando, others — would then trade their pick plus some other asset (young player/future pick) to the Hawks for Doncic. Who the Hawks reportedly really want is Trae Young, but they can move down to get him.

If the Slovenian is off the board, it’s more likely that Memphis trades the No. 4 pick, according to sources. However, there are questions about whether Memphis can get what it thinks is fair value for selling the No. 4. So maybe they just take Jaren Jackson Jr.

How is it going to shake out?

That follows my final mock draft, which was put together Wednesday for the video above. It has:

1. Phoenix: DeAndre Ayton
2. Sacramento: Marvin Bagley
3. Atlanta: Luka Doncic
4. Memphis: Jaren Jackson
5. Dallas: Mo Bamba
6. Orlando: Trae Young
7. Chicago: Michael Porter Jr.
8. Cleveland: Wendell Carter Jr.
9. New York: Kevin Knox
10. Philadelphia: Mikail Bridges
11. Charlotte: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
12. LA Clippers: Robert Williams
13. LA Clippers: Collin Sexton
14. Denver: Miles Bridges

The problem with any mock draft now is accounting for trades, and those are coming.

Report: Spurs hearing out Kawhi Leonard trade offers, including from Lakers

Ronald Cortes/Getty Images
7 Comments

The Spurs shot down Kawhi Leonard trade offers before the trade deadline. They brushed off Leonard trade offers earlier this offseason.

Then, the already strained situation got even worse.

Leonard put out word he wanted to leave San Antonio, ideally for the Lakers. He met with Gregg Popovich this week in San Diego, reportedly directly telling the president-coach he wants out.

What are the Spurs doing now?

Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:

The Lakers are in that mix.

The Spurs can try to mend their relationship with Leonard. They could even use a super-max contract – projected to be worth $219 million over five years – to aid that process. They don’t have to trade him.

But the clock is ticking toward tonight’s draft, teams using their cap space in other ways and Leonard’s 2019 free agency.

San Antonio has no choice but to get more aggressive in handling Leonard’s future. This is a small step in that direction.