Spurs reset franchise for post Tim Duncan life in one impressive week

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This coming season, the San Antonio Spurs are going to be a force to be reckoned with: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills and the core that was a legitimate title contender last season, and now they’ve added the 20-and-10 talents of LaMarcus Aldridge. Plus the Spurs are not done, they are in the mix for David West and other quality role players. They will be as good as anyone, serious contenders to win another Larry O’Brien trophy.

That’s not even the most impressive part of what the Spurs did this summer.

In one week, San Antonio has ensured that when Tim Duncan walks away — very possibly after next season — the Spurs will remain at the top of the West for at least the next four years.

The Spurs will keep being the Spurs.

Of course, it didn’t all happen in just one week. This started June 23, 2011, the night of the NBA Draft when the Spurs shipped out George Hill — a good point guard and a player Gregg Popovich was very fond of — for the rights to Kawhi Leonard. It was a gamble, but the Spurs saw the potential in the long, athletic, big-handed Leonard to bring them defense and scoring from the wing they had not been getting.

This week the Spurs secured that promise — they locked Leonard up to a five-year, $90 million max contract extension. Leonard is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in the NBA and a former Finals MVP, plus he brought 16.5 points and 7.2 rebounds a game last season, with an efficient true shooting percentage of 56.2 percent. He is a franchise cornerstone piece on the wings.

Aldridge gives them that in the paint for the next four years — when Duncan steps away Aldridge slides right into that slot.

Like Duncan, Aldridge has good footwork and moves in the post, but he will kill you from the midrange. (Yes the midrange jumper is going out of fashion in the NBA, but like the stolen base in baseball it’s a good strategy if you hit a high-enough percentage and Aldridge shot an excellent 44 percent from 16 feet out to the arc last season).

Like Duncan, Aldridge is a good defender (not as good as peak Duncan, but good). And like Duncan, he is underrated for his toughness — he was supposed to have surgery on his thumb last season but came back to play out the season because he thought the Trail Blazers could contend.

Just as happened in 2011 with the Leonard trade, credit Popovich for knowing what needed to be done. Popovich is no recruiter by choice, but when Aldrige was on the fence, he came back out to Los Angeles for a second lunch to talk specifics with the big man. Aldridge had more questions, pressed for details, and liked what he heard, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Aldridge and Leonard are the core for the next four years, but as always the Spurs will have quality talent at below-market prices around them.

Danny Green is as good a “3&D” guy as there is in the NBA right now and when you look at what the others in that class got — DeMarre Carroll was given $60 million from Toronto — the Spurs this week re-signed Green at a steal of four years, $45 million.

Then there is Tony Parker, who could have made more than the $13.4 million he will make this year but is locked in now for three more seasons at a price that will be a bargain as the salary cap spikes. Boris Diaw will make $22 million over the next three years, but the next two years of his deal are not fully guaranteed if the Spurs want to make a move. Patty Mills is going to make just a little over $7 million total the next two seasons.

Plus, Popovich plans to stick around for a little while.

All of which is to say, the Spurs didn’t just reload this week to make one more run at a sixth ring for Tim Duncan.

This week the Spurs set themselves up to contend for titles long after Duncan has retired to spend more time at his custom auto shop.

The Spurs are going to just keep going on, being the San Antonio Spurs

Chris Paul says he wants to play at least 20 seasons

Thunder star Chris Paul
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CHICAGO – Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta was bellyaching about Chris Paul‘s contract (three years, $124,076,442 remaining). Houston traded two first-round picks and two first-round pick swaps just to go from Paul to Russell Westbrook. The Thunder appeared to prioritize the picks far more than Paul, whom they were reportedly willing to flip to his preferred destination.

A few months later, Paul was making big plays and berating officials in the All-Star game.

It’s quite the resurgence for the 34-year-old who’d missed the last three All-Star games.

Here are the oldest players ever to make an All-Star team after not being an All-Star the prior three seasons:

Chris Paul

Of the players older than Paul on that list, Dirk Nowitzki was placed into the All-Star game by the commissioner, and Michael Jordan came out of retirement after missing three seasons. Only Johnny Green kept grinding before breaking back through.

Feeling revitalized, Paul – in his 15th season – doesn’t sound anywhere near retirement.

“Especially the way that my body feels now, I definitely probably at least want to play at least 20 years,” Paul said.

That’s ambitious. Just seven players have played at least 20 NBA seasons:

  • Vince Carter (22)
  • Dirk Nowitzki (21)
  • Kevin Garnett (21)
  • Kevin Willis (21)
  • Robert Parish (21)
  • Kobe Bryant (20)
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (20)

So much can go wrong this late into a player’s career.

But by raising his game, Paul gives himself more runway to decline and remain a viable NBA player. He at least has a chance, which is far more than most players can say at his age.

Kevin Garnett says first choice for 2007 trade was Kobe Bryant and Lakers

Celtics great Kevin Garnett and Lakers legend Kobe Bryant
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Kevin Garnett didn’t have a no-trade clause when the Timberwolves were shopping him in 2007. But because he could either sign an extension with his new team or opt out in 2008, Garnett had massive leverage over where he went. Effectively, he could swing whether it was worth a team’s while to deal for him.

Four primary suitors emerged: Celtics, Lakers, Suns and Warriors.

Garnett’s initial top choice? Joining Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles.

Garnett on All The Smoke:

I’m just being honest with everybody. I wanted to link with Kobe.

Kobe and I had a different connect. When Kobe-Shaq went on their little thing, a lot of people went with Shaq. A lot of people didn’t even f— with Kob. You know, Kob, whatever. One of the very few to just stay with him. I was a neutral guy, anyway. I show everybody love.

I tried to link with him, and I couldn’t get him on the line.

Garnett was working out at the time with Tyronn Lue, who was close with Bryant and encouraged Garnett to call back. Garnett did, but Bryant still didn’t return the call.

This only reinforces the notation that Bryant cost the Lakers stars. As singularly great as he was, Bryant just wasn’t about recruiting.

Bryant and Garnett would have been a fascinating pairing. They definitely had the talent to compete. Maybe the two notoriously intense stars would have meshed over a shared approach. Or maybe they would’ve driven each other crazy, a lack of balance between them.

The Lakers even had a trade framework in place involving Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom.

But Bryant’s unavailability created an opening for Boston.

Garnett:

Danny Ainge flew in, and he just got right to it and showed the vision, the vision he was seeing. You ever have somebody talk to you and as they’re talking to you, you can see what they’re seeing, so much that you’re not even looking at them no more but you see it? That’s how he was painting it. And he was a Picasso. And this is Danny Ainge’s greatness, in him being able to lure you in, his charming ass. You know what I’m saying? I didn’t even know he was finessing me.

Garnett told the Celtics to keep Rajon Rondo, who was apparently initially part of the package going to Minnesota. They did, and it worked out extremely well. Boston won the 2008 title – over Bryant’s Lakers. (The Lakers won the next two championships, including over the Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals.)

What about Phoenix, which – featuring Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion – was the best of the four teams at the time?

Garnett:

I actually called Steve Nash just as a courtesy, and I guess the call he hit me back with was, “Yo, if you come down here, we need you to take a major pay cut.” And I was like, “OK, if I come down there, I’m playing with you and Amar’e right?” He’s like, “Yeah, I think they’re going to give Amar’e up for you and Shawn.” And I said, “So, who is it going to be? Just me and you?”

As for Golden State, which – featuring All The Smoke hosts Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes – had just pulled a historic upset of the top-seeded Mavericks:

I was seeing how y’all was, but I needed a superstar.

Report: John Paxson to remain in power with Bulls

Bulls executive John Paxson
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The Bulls are reportedly looking for a general manager to replace Gar Forman.

But the other half of GarPax – Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson – apparently isn’t going anywhere. And of course neither is president/CEO Michael Reinsdorf, son of owner Jerry Reinsdorf.

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

A source familiar with the situation told the Sun-Times on Wednesday that there could be multiple people hired, as the power structure is still being determined.

Paxson and Reinsdorf are still running the show, with Paxson still considered to have a valuable seat at the table no matter what title they come up for him.

Even if it appears that Paxson will be taking a background approach, the source said don’t believe it. The Reinsdorfs still have 100 percent faith in him leading the direction of this organization.

Evaluating individual members of a front office can be extremely difficult from the outside.

But Paxson didn’t cover himself in glory when he effectively declared the Bulls, after going 27-55 in 2017-18, were done tanking. Chicago went 22-60 last season and is 19-36 this season.

The Bulls need an honest assessment of where they are. They’re not good and probably not that close to being good. They have a few interesting young players – Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr. But even with a high pick in this year’s draft, Chicago’s young core isn’t strong enough to assume it will rise into a quality team.

Though Paxson has supported Jim Boylen, the Bulls could probably use a new coach.

More importantly, they must understand that remaining at the bottom and securing more high picks is their best path forward. Drafting well would accelerate the process, but drafting is hard. Sometimes, you need more bites at the apple.

Of course, that will require a patience Chicago has rarely shown.

Knicks’ former player, G-League GM Allan Houston could get promotion

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There was a time when former Knicks All-Star player Allan Houston was seen as the rising front office star of the team. Since then, he has risen to assistant GM (before the Phil Jackson era), survived multiple management changes, and bounced around to different roles, most recently as the GM of the G-League Westchester Knicks.

Now he could be seeing a promotion under soon-to-arrive team president Leon Rose, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

As Leon Rose prepares for his imminent takeover, Garden constant Allan Houston has emerged as a candidate for a front office promotion, a league source told the Daily News…

According to a source, Craig Robinson, the current Knicks’ vice president of player development, has already had his responsibilities cut. Robinson, who is Michelle Obama’s brother, was hired by his Princeton buddy Steve Mills to oversee a comprehensive player development initiative…

The future of GM Scott Perry is unknown but it’s worth noting he has a strong relationship with Rose’s confidante, William Wesley.

Nobody knows exactly what the Knicks front office will look like after Rose officially takes the reins (he is still finishing up commitments to his CAA clients before coming over). We know William “World Wide Wes” Wesley will not have a role with the team, staying with CAA, but he will likely still have Rose’s ear. There will be a host of changes.

A deep house cleaning is in order in New York as the Knicks need to change their culture, not just their players. There is a lot of work to be done to develop players and build a foundation that will attract star players — right now the Knicks are not that kind of draw.  Houston apparently is going to get a chance to be part of whatever is next.