51Q: How long will the Spurs need to mesh?


The San Antonio Spurs and LaMarcus Aldridge are undertaking a rare experiment – one that has produced a championship more often than not.

Just five players in NBA history have changed teams in the offseason after averaging as many points per game as Aldridge did last year (23.4) and gone to a team that won as many games as the Spurs did (55):

  • Walt Hazzard, traded from the Seattle SuperSonics to the 56-win Atlanta Hawks after averaging 24.0 points in 1968
  • Oscar Robertson, traded from the Cincinnati Royals to the 56-win Milwaukee Bucks in 25.3 points in 1970
  • Charlie Scott, traded from the Phoenix Suns to the 60-win Boston Celtics after averaging 24.3 points in 1975
  • Moses Malone, traded from the Houston Rockets to the 58-win Philadelphia 76ers after averaging 31.1 points in 1982
  • Jeff Malone, traded from the Washington Bullets to the 55-win Utah Jazz after averaging 24.3 points in 1990

Scott, Robertson and Moses Malone all won a championship in their first season with their new team.

The bar is no lower in San Antonio this year.

Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili might be in their final seasons. Tony Parker could be over the hill soon, if he isn’t already.

Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Gregg Popovich give the Spurs a bright future beyond this season, but to reward the old guard with one more title, the time is now.

Unfortunately, recent history suggests growing pains.

The only scorers as proficient as Aldridge to change teams in the last eight years were LeBron and Kevin Love to the Cavaliers last year and LeBron and Chris Bosh to the Heat in 2010. Cleveland started 19-20. Miami began 8-7.

But the Cavaliers were awful before LeBron’s return, and the Heat didn’t get out of the first round the year prior to LeBron’s arrival. Plus, both teams added two new stars, more upheaval.

The Spurs, on the other hand, are a model of consistency. They’ve reached the playoffs 18 straight seasons and will mostly rely on other returners, though David West will contribute. Their system is solidified.

And so is Aldridge’s. He works methodically with the ball. He shoots mid-range jumpers, ideally working from the left side. He prefers power forward to center.

He also seems to believe the Spurs won’t change him, a notion they’ve fueled.

But there will have to be change. After trading Tiago Splitter to clear cap space, San Antonio needs Aldridge to play some center. His new teammates might be willing to defer offensively, but there will still be a push for Aldridge to pass more in Popovich’s scheme.

The Cavaliers and Heat reached the Finals their first seasons with their new stars, though both teams were more open to a shakeup.

The Spurs want to do things their way. Aldridge has known only how to do things his way.

Where that doesn’t intersect, both sides must find common ground – ideally while Duncan, Ginobili and Parker are still around.

Timberwolves win first road game in 52 days, top Heat (video)

Leave a comment

MIAMI — Jordan McLaughlin’s layup with just under nine seconds left put Minnesota ahead for good, D’Angelo Russell led all scorers with 27 points and the Timberwolves added to Miami’s late-season stagger by beating the Heat 129-126 on Wednesday night.

Malik Beasley scored 21 points, Juancho Hernangomez tied a season-high with 17 and McLaughlin added 13 for Minnesota. The Timberwolves were down by 12 with 3:59 left, then closed on a 20-5 run to get just their second victory in 20 games.

Jimmy Butler’s two free throws with 13.8 seconds left put Miami up 126-125, but McLaughlin’s layup on the next Minnesota possession put the Timberwolves on top to stay. Butler’s layup with 3.2 seconds left got blocked by Russell, and the Wolves held on.

Minnesota snapped a nine-game road losing streak, getting its first road victory since beat the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 5.

Kendrick Nunn led Miami with 24 points. Bam Adebayo had 22 points and 10 rebounds and Butler — back after a two-game absence for personal reasons — had 18 for Miami. The Heat fell to 23-4 at home and have dropped seven of their last nine overall.

The Heat stayed a half-game ahead of Philadelphia in the race for the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Philadelphia lost in Cleveland earlier Wednesday, a game where 76ers star Joel Embiid departed early because of a shoulder injury.

The Heat have had major trouble closing games of late — a 22-point lead late in the third quarter against Cleveland on Monday was frittered away in what probably was the worst loss of the season, until now anyway — and a long film session and meeting on Tuesday clearly didn’t solve the issue.

They were up 121-109 with 3:59 left, and 123-112 after a layup by Butler 24 seconds later.

And Minnesota — a team that came into the night with one win in a span of 48 days — still wasn’t finished off. The Timberwolves scored the next 11 points to tie the game, getting five of those points from Beasley and a tying free throw from McLaughlin with 46 seconds left.


Timberwolves: Minnesota’s 27 attempts from 3-point range in the first two quarters was a first-half franchise record. … The Wolves are 4-0 in road games against Southeast Division teams this season, and 6-19 in all other road contests.

Heat: Adebayo played through a sprained right ankle, pushing his consecutive-game streak to 144 — extending the fourth-longest such streak in team history. … Goran Dragic’s first basket was a 3-pointer, and that pushed him one point past Grant Long (5,473) for 10th on the Heat career scoring list. … Nunn got his third consecutive rookie of the month trophy in a brief halftime ceremony.


Wednesday marked James Johnson’s first game back in Miami since the trade that sent him to Minnesota earlier this month, a move that sent Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill to Miami from Memphis. “I think Minnesota is seeing what kind of versatility he can bring to the game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.


A large contingent of fans from Slovenia were in attendance Wednesday — and more are coming Friday, when the Heat play host to the Dallas Mavericks. At last season’s Dallas-at-Miami game, more than 2,000 Slovenians were in attendance to watch their nation’s two best NBA players, Dragic and Dallas star Luka Doncic, go head-to-head.


Timberwolves: At Orlando on Friday night.

Heat: Host Dallas on Friday night.

Trae Young blocks 7-foot Mo Bamba at rim (video)

Leave a comment

Trae Young might be the NBA’s worst defender.

He’s small (6-foot-1 with a 6-foot-3 wingspan). His athleticism is far from imposing. He also carries a massive load for the Hawks offensively, leaving little energy for defense.

But he still blocked 7-foot Magic center Mo Bamba at the rim.

Not a great moment for Bamba.

Joel Embiid leaves 76ers game with shoulder injury (video)

Leave a comment

Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons?

The debate has gained attention this season after the 76ers spent years retooling around their stars. The answer clearly isn’t neither. But that’s what Philadelphia now faces.

With Simmons already injured, Embiid got hurt in the 76ers’ game against the Cavaliers tonight.

Serena Winters of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Losing Embiid for an extended period would be a huge blow to Philadelphia, especially with Simmons already out. The 76ers (fifth place, half a game out of fourth) are right on the edge of getting home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Embiid had been playing so well lately. This is an especially tough time for a setback.

At least Philadelphia has depth to cope. Al Horford can easily slide from power forward to center. Tobias Harris might be better off at power forward than small forward, anyway. This is where Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks, acquired just before the trade deadline, come in handy as additional wing options. Kyle O'Quinn can also play behind Horford.

But the loss of talent is the biggest development, and there’s no overcoming that until Embiid and Simmons get healthy.

Zach LaVine: Trash talk directed at Dennis Schroder, not Bulls coach Jim Boylen

Leave a comment

During the Bulls’ loss to the Thunder yesterday, Zach LaVine appeared to say, “I have f—ing 40 points!”

Many assumed LaVine was snapping at Chicago coach Jim Boylen. But LaVine clarified his target was Oklahoma City guard Dennis Schroder.

Eric Woodyard of ESPN:

I take LaVine at his word.

Want to make a case LaVine dislikes Boylen? You’ll just have to point to all the other evidence.