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

Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

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The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.

 

Vintage Kobe: Redeem Team recalls him running over Pau Gasol

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If the goal of a trailer is to get you to want to see the movie, then well done Netflix. I’m in.

Netflix released a trailer for its upcoming Redeem Team documentary on the 2008 Olympics, featuring some vintage Kobe Bryant. Just as a quick refresher, in 2008 the USA’s toughest opponent would be a deep Spanish team led by peak Pau Gasol but also with Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, José Calderón, Rudy Fernández, Juan Carlos Navarro and more. This was a legitimately dangerous team and one the USA would face first in group play.

Kobe wanted to set a tone — and did by running through his friend Gasol. (Warning: There is NSFW language in the video clip below.)

“‘First play of the game I’m running through Pau Gasol.’ And we was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘First play of the game, I know what they’re gonna run.’ And he knew Pau was gonna be the last screen and he said ‘I’m running through him,'” Dwayne Wade said

Spoiler alert: The USA thrashed Spain in group stage play. However, come the Gold Medal game it was a lot tougher for the Americans to beat the Spaniards, with Kobe having to have a big fourth quarter and — what often goes unremembered — a master class from Chris Paul in game management to control the tempo and flow.

I’m all in for the documentary, which drops on Oct. 7 on Netflix.

Spurs’ Keldon Johnson to miss start of training camp with shoulder injury

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Keldon Johnson is poised to have a monster season on a rebuilding Spurs team.

Except he’s going to miss the start of training camp and the team’s preseason games. And could be out longer.

Johnson suffered a “right shoulder posterior dislocation during Spurs open gym” the team announced Saturday. Posterior dislocations are rare (less than 5% of all dislocations) and are usually from a fall on an extended arm. Recovering from the injury depends on many factors but can extend out for months. However, the Spurs said Johnson is expected to be available for the start of the regular season less than a month from now.

Johnson averaged 17 points and 6.1 rebounds a game last season, and is an elite perimeter shooter off the catch-and-shoot (39.8% from 3 overall), who also can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. He was the team’s second-leading scorer last season (to Dejounte Murray, who is now in Atlanta).

The Spurs will be cautious with bringing Johnson back. Even in what could be Gregg Popovich’s last season as coach the Spurs are looking more to be part of the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes than push for a playoff spot. Johnson is a quality player who helps San Antonio win games, which both is why they want him back healthy and why they are not going to rush him.

Cavaliers reportedly extend Dean Wade for three years, $18.5 million

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This could be a steal for the Cavaliers — Dean Wade could be the starting three for the Cavaliers by the end of this season and he’s got a genuine upside.

The Cavaliers have extended Wade for three years, $18.5 million, a story where multiple sources were on top of it, including Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Wade’s counting stats aren’t eye-popping — 5.3 points a game and shooting 35.7% from 3 — but he is a quality wing defender who has improved as a floor spacer (sometimes setting picks and popping out). He’s a two-way player who has put in the work and could pass Isaac Okoro on the depth chart this season.

The Cavaliers have four All-Stars who will undoubtedly be starting for them — Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell in the backcourt, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley up front — and the looming question is at the three. Wade has a chance this season to step into that role.

Which makes extending him at a little over $6 million a season a potential steal for the Cavaliers.